Chimpanzee Cheeta In Its Retirement Home

 Palm Spings, CA: August 2003

Cheeta the chimpanzee is believed to be the world’s oldest living primate. It was thought for a long time to be one the chimpanzees that appeared in the 1930’s and 1940’s Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller  and Maureen O’Sullivan. Cheeta, a male chimpanzee,  now lives happily at the C.H.E.E.T.A Primate Foundation in Palm Springs, California, a home for primates who have retired from the movie industry and the show business.

The 4.5 foot (1.40 meter) tall, 150 pound (68 kilogram) chimpanzee is in excellent condition despite a well-controlled diabetes, lives happily with his owner and caretaker, Dan Westfall, in Palm Spring, CA.

The house is also the home of the C.H.E.E.T.A Primate Foundation, an organization that provides housing and care to primates who retired from the movie industry and the show business. C.H.E.E.T.A stands for Committee to Help the Environment of Endangered and Threatened Apes. 

Westfall, a comedian and actor, adopted Cheeta 12 years ago from his uncle Tony Gentry, an animal trainer who worked in Hollywood.  Gentry loved his chimp so much and was so worried that Cheeta would end up in a lab for experimentation purposes that he asked in his will that Cheeta would be put to sleep after his death. It took Westfall two years to convince his uncle to let him adopt Cheeta. Gentry died 10 years ago. 

According to Westfall, Cheeta has a talent as an abstract artist and uses a paintbrush and bright colors for his creations which are full of sweeps, swirls, and straight lines. Cheeta’s creations are sold as “Ape-stract Art” and for $135 a piece. Buyers can request particular colors to match their tastes or living rooms. The proceeds go to support the Cheeta Primate Foundation. Three of Cheeta’s painting were exposed at the National Museum in London for three months. 

Cheeta enjoys walks in the park, rides in the car, watching animal series on TV, making sounds on a piano and looking at pictures in magazines. Westfall was inspired by primate researcher Jane Goodall!to start the foundation for retired and unwanted showbiz primates. The other primates include chimpanzees, orangutans, and monkeys who have worked in television commercials, nightclubs, theaters and circuses. None has reached the star status of Cheeta. 

Donations or a request for a piece of Cheeta’s Ape-stract art can be sent to: 

Dan Westfall Cheeta Primate Foundation 

PO Box 8162 

Palm Springs, CA 92263 

Or email 


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