It’s not clear if the chimpanzee that Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, Florida, said died on December 24 at the age of 80 was indeed Cheetah, the chimpanzee sidekick in the early 1930s Tarzan movies. Here are three other animals whose identity and age we are surer of, and whose passing in 2011 was mourned around the globe. A fourth animal is now “off the radar” and, one hopes, now swimming somewhere back in Antartica.
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Knut, the beloved polar bear in the Berlin Zoo, died on March 19 in front of some 600 visitors. The zoo said that the four-year-old bear suffered from encephalitis, a swelling of the brain caused by an infection. In his last moments, Knut’s rear left leg was seen to shake, after which he convulsed several times and fell backwards into a pool in his enclosure.
People around the world mourned for Knut, leaving flowers and other mementos. The zoo’s decision to stuff and display his body in Berlin’s Museum of Natural History has caused a controversy, with many of the bear’s fans protesting the plan.
Photo by dr_XeNo
Shrek, called the World’s Wooliest Sheep, died at the age of 17 on June 6. Shrek became famous in 2004, after he hid in caves and avoided being caught and sheared for six years. He was shorn on April 28 in 20 minutes by a professional and yielded enough wool (60 pounds) to make suits for 20 men.
Photo by JSA_NZ
Heidi, a cross-eyed opossum, lived at the Leipzig Zoo in Germayn and became famous for her unusual visage. Born around May of 2008, she and a sister were raised in a wild animal sanctuary in North Carolina and then brought first to Denmark and then Leipzig in 2009. She was put to sleep in September of 2011 after her health deteriorated; she also suffered from arthrosis.
Photo by frank.schreiber
Happy Feet, a young emperor penguin, was found walking on Peka Peka Beach, north of Wellington in New Zealand, on June 20. He had somehow gotten way off track and swam 2,000 miles from Antartica. He stayed on the beach for some days but was taken in by the Wellington Zoo after eating driftwood and sand (which he’d mistaken for snow). After surgery, he spent several weeks recovering in a specially air-conditioned room. The Wellington Zoo set up a webcam and, like Knut, Shrek and Heidi, the three-year-old penguin acquired a worldwide following.
In the beginning of September, Happy Feet released into the southern ocean. He was outfitted with a tracking device, which soon went silent. While it’s possible that he may have been eaten, by a shark or a killer whale, it’s also very likely that the tracker just fell off and that Happy Feet made his way back home to Antartica.
Photo of an emperor penguin in Antartica by Jenny Varley
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Photo of Knut in 2009 by Udo SchrĂ¶her