Today we got the AWESOME chance to go
meet Cheeta the Chimp,
in person. He was one of the 10 or so chimps that played the
part of Cheeta in the Tarazan television show back in the 1940s.
Cool, huh?? He's in his 60s now, retired and living in Palm
Springs with the nephew of his original trainer.
The nephew set up a retirement
sanctuary for old show monkeys so they don't end up in zoos,
circuses or put down, which was the original plan the original
trainer had for Cheeta upon his (the trainer's) death. Dr.
Jane Goodall asked Dan to make a sanctuary for these animals because
they have no other place to go since all they know is how to act
like a human and have never, ever really been a chimp.
Luckily, they don't use chimps like they used to and so there aren't
that many of them that need retirement homes now. Dan has
four retired show monkeys right now.
The chimp on the right of the photo
Johnny Wiessmuller, aka Tarazan, is the one we met. He was
just a baby chimp when he was used in the Tarazan show.
Here's Cheeta now well into his 60s.
Cheeta came into the room for a snack
of a few Fritos and iced tea.
Look how fancy he drinks...he drinks
with his fingers in the air.
Here is his performing one of his
tricks for us. Silly monkey.
and blowing his nose...complete with
all the necessary sound effects
then Cheeta got down and went over to
the piano to perform a little more
Cheeta still has all his teeth
While Dan was telling us all about
Cheeta, Cheeta kept trying to groom Dan's nose, ears and hands.
Then Cheeta performed an original
song on the piano...wish I remembered how to take video on this new
camera so I could have shared it with everyone.
a huge smile at the end of his
Cheeta really likes to smell under
and be tickled....it was so fun to
hear him laughing
and Cheeta likes to tickle back
here he is waving good-bye....his
wave is not your normal wave...it's more like shaking your hand way
and giving kisses
Then we went outside to visit Cheeta
and Jeeter, another retired show chimp, while they were in their
Jeeter, is quite the prankster and
likes to run around and around in his cage sliding a banana box the
whole way while revving his engines and then jumping up on the cage
and spitting water on us. And he has incredible aim!!
This is Jeeter after one of the many
spitting he did on us.
Here is Jeeter just before he gave
Dan a loud kiss
Here is Cheeta playing chase with the
Cheeta also is a famous painter.
Her paintings have sold to people in 30 countries. Here she is
posing with one of her paintings. Dr Jane Goodall took two of
her paintings with her the last time she came for a visit and
auctioned them off and they each sold for $10,000!!!
Here are some photos of some of the
celebrities who have come to visit Cheeta.
Tippi Hedron, starred in The Birds and is Melanie Griffith's mom
PBS came out this past April to do a
show about Cheeta. It hasn't aired yet.
Cheeta working on one of his
masterpieces. If you'd like a painting done by Cheeta,
you can buy one for a
donation on his site.
IMPORTANT: Dan was very
good to make sure to not promote the idea that chimps make good
pets. He believes that they should stay out in the wild and be
free but, unfortunately for these chimps, they were born in a time
when no one thought too much about letting animals be free and so
have lost most of their natural chimp-ness and it would very hard to
try to put them in with other chimps now. He begged his uncle
not to have Cheeta down in his will when he died and to let him take
him and care for him for the rest of his natural life. His
uncle finally gave in and let him take Cheeta upon his death.
I have always been intrigued with
gorillas and monkeys since I was a child. In fact, my first
year of college was spent working towards a degree in Zoology with
the hopes of someday working with Koko, the gorilla.
Our page on Koko
- I absolutely LOVE her!!
I eventually decided that the chance
of doing that was very small and so I switched my major to
Elementary Education. I still would really, really love to
work with gorillas, chimps and other monkeys some day. I have
a friend who is a Behavior Specialist at a
sanctuary in Louisiana, called Chimp Haven. They take in
chimps that have been used for medical testing, in the entertainment
industry and/or former pets. They have a nice huge place and
provide a fabulous opportunity for these chimps to become chimps
again, or maybe become chimps for the first time.