Greetings from deep in the jungles of T.I.G.E.R.S. Preserve in beautiful Myrtle Beach!
With those simple words, Cheetah did whatever was needed to help his master. He could untie ropes, create distractions, summon elephants and steal weapons, or anything else that Tarzan wanted.
So, what does “ungawa” mean? After many hours of careful research, as well as many days of my youth watching Tarzan movies…I still have no idea.
But Cheetah did, in fact he seemed to understand everything that everyone was saying. He would overhear conversation and relate danger to Tarzan, as well as take appropriate actions to thwart the bad guys. So, just who was Cheetah and what happened to him?
The role of Cheetah was actually performed by several different chimpanzees, beginning with the original Cheetah being portrayed by a chimp named Jiggs. Jiggs was born around 1931 and appeared in the first two Weissmuller films and a handful of other Tarzan films starring Buster Crabb until he passed away in 1938. From then on there was a collection of chimps with names like Harry, Zippy and Dinky that worked on the Tarzan films over the next 30 years.
Over the years there have also been some unscrupulous trainers who have claimed to have the original Cheetah and have attempted to cash in on the name.
Chimpanzees are our closest animal relatives and some people believe that we have actually evolved from the primate species, which makes the old saying: “You’re trying to make a monkey out of me?” a bit of an oxymoron.
If you’re a believer and anxious for a family reunion, or like me, someone who appreciates exotic animals and supports their preservation, come visit us at T.I.G.E.R.S. in Myrtle Beach. Oh, and if you get to see a chimpanzee while you’re there, tell him “ungawa”, he’lll know what you mean.