When the news broke that Tarzan's chimpanzee Cheetah had died at the age of 80, the world mourned the passing of a true Hollywood star, but it now appears to have been a hoax.

The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Florida announced that the chimp who played Cheetah, Tarzan's sidekick in the 1930s films, passed away on Christmas Eve at the age of 80 after suffering from kidney failure. Experts now claim that this is impossible.

Doubt was immediately cast on the reports because chimpanzees rarely live beyond the age of 35 in the wild and 50 in captivity, meaning that if the chimp in question was, indeed, the real Cheetah, he would have been the oldest chimpanzee that ever lived.

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary director Debbie Cobb's claims were also put into question after it came to light that, even though she claimed that Cheetah came to the sanctuary directly from Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller in 1960, she has no documentation to verify the chimp's identity after files were destroyed by a fire in 1995.

Dr Alison Cronin, director of Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre in Dorset, told The Independent: "There is an awful lot of speculation about Cheetah and whether it is the right one. I don't believe it.

"When they get old they really look it. The one I saw did not look 80." Others speculated that several different chimps were used in the 1930s films," she added.

This is not the first time false reports have been made about a chimp from the Tarzan films. In 2008, the Washington Post discovered that another ape that was purported to have appeared in the iconic 1930s films was, in fact, born in 1960.