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Did Cheetah the Chimp Really Die Last Weekend?

Hulton Archive - Getty Images

This week, media outlets from around the world reported that Cheetah, one of the famous chimpanzees to play Tarzan’s sidekick in the classic films had died at a sanctuary in Florida. But since then, the plot has thickened.

Stories started coming out yesterday that cast doubt on a number of aspects of the story. The first questionable claim was about the primate’s age. Tuesday’s reports said that the chimp in question was 80 years old. Since then, though, primate experts have weighed in, saying that most chimps in captivity can only be expected to live to around 40-60 years old. Another odd anomaly is the fact that the director of the sanctuary where the animal allegedly passed, has stated that any documentation that would have existed to prove the chimp’s pedigree had, “burned up” in a fire in 1995.

Will 2011 end up being The Year of the Hoax?

What do you think, should we be mourning the passing of an early American cinema icon, or was the mass media the victims of an elaborate (if not necessarily all that well planned out) hoax? Feel free to leave a comment below with your impression of the story.

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