Cheetah the Chimp
Cheetah starred alongside Maureen O'Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller in the 1932 classic Tarzan the Ape Man. MGM

Cheetah the chimpanzee sidekick who starred in the classic Tarzan films of the1930s has died at the age of 80.

The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbour, Florida, where the animal star had lived since his retirement in 1960, announced that Cheetah died of kidney failure on 24 December.

The chimpanzee appeared alongside the American Olympic gold medal swimmer Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan series.

Sanctuary director Debbie Cobb told the Tampa Tribune that Cheetah loved finger-painting and seemed attuned to human feelings.

She said the average chimp survives 25 to 35 years in the wild and 35 to 45 years in captivity at a zoo.

The films were inspired by the Tarzan stories of American author Edgar Rice Burroughs, which chronicle the adventures of a man raised by apes in Africa.

Cheetah became known in the films for providing comic relief by clowning around with his human co-stars.