Florida Guide > Places to Visit
MONKEY JUNGLE, MIAMI
If you like monkeys then you will love Monkey Jungle! Advertised as the place where ‘Humans are Caged and Monkeys Run Wild’ it is certainly one not to miss if you are in the Miami area. It is located just off US Highway 1, south of Miami at 14805 Southwest 216th Street, in South Dade. Here, nearly 400 primates run free in this 30 acre reserve. There are 30 species of primates to be found at Monkey Jungle, and these include gibbons, spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, colobus, Black Capped Capuchins, Java Monkeys, orang-utans and Golden Lion Tamarinds. These tiny creatures are nearly extinct in their native Brazil, and Monkey Jungle takes part in an international effort to save them.
There are over 80 Java Monkeys, and these are the first animals that you will see when you arrive at Monkey Jungle. They are normally to be found foraging through the jungle in their natural habitat, and they are skilled divers. They like to collect crabs, and other shellfish, that they find along the riverbanks and mangrove swamps, but here they practise these skills by diving into a pool to retrieve fruit thrown in by the guides.
The Amazonian Rainforest section is very authentic as it has hundreds of different species of plants, trees and palms, which were collected from the rainforests of the Amazon. Many of them originated from Peru, which receives about 180 inches of rain a year. Although Southern Florida gets about 60 inches of rain, they have to use an irrigation system to maintain the precipitation at the correct level. There are natural predators in this live rainforest, such as racoons, hawks and yellow rat snakes, but the monkeys eat meat, and sometimes they devour the baby racoons!
The monkeys can come and go as they please in this rainforest, and so it has become a great place for research, as they live and behave just as they would in the wild. The largest monkeys that can be found here are the Howlers, called Jordan, Ruby and Patricia. They are called howlers because that is just what Jordan does when he wakes up, to show the other animals that they should stay away from his territory. This howl can be heard from up to a mile away, and anything can set him off – large groups of people, a thunderstorm, or even a low flying aeroplane. Their tails are prehensile, so they can grasp objects with it, or use it to hang from branches when they are feeding. Their tails function as third hands, and they can grasp really small objects such as grapes.
Many of us will have seen another type of monkey found here – the Black Capped Capuchins, as these were once popular as organ grinder monkeys. I can remember as a child imploring my parents to let me hold one of these creatures and have my photo taken at the beach. They are one of the most intelligent monkeys and can actually use, and make, tools. They, too, have prehensile tails. One of the most fascinating facts we learned was that they are being used in a pioneering programme, where they help paraplegics and quadriplegics by doing tasks that their owners cannot do. They can be trained to do such things as open doors, get food out of the ‘fridge, and even comb their owner’s hair. However, they are quite fierce and aggressive in the wild.
There are over 125 small Squirrel monkeys, and they were once used as research animals and pets, but here at Monkey Jungle they have developed a successful breeding programme.
During the day you will be able to see the monkeys being fed at various times. And if you want to see something different then you can visit the Aviary where there is a sanctuary for captive parrots that are homeless. These birds may have been abandoned, or perhaps their owners could no longer care for them, so they are adopted by the ‘Wings of Love Foundation’ and are housed in huge free-flight domes.
At Monkey Jungle, there is a snack bar to ward off the hunger pangs, and here you can buy hot dogs, ice cream and drinks. There is also a Gift Shop, selling the usual souvenirs such as hats, cuddly toys – monkeys of course – and collectables. You will find it hard to walk away without a furry animal!
OV Ref: 576
25th July 2005
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