The Washington Times - September 8, 2008, 12:04PM

By Lisa M. Ruth, editor and writer, Donne Tempo Magazine

Nestled in the heart of bustling Miami is a tropical enclave where visitors can get an up-close view of a wide array of birds, mammals, primates, reptiles, and fish, including the rare and beautiful six-foot Cassowary, a 2,000 pound Crocosaurus, and the legendary liger.

Jungle Island – previously Parrot Jungle Island – is an eighteen-acre facility located on Watson Island, just east of Miami.  This new $46 million iteration of the Jungle opened in 2003, improving on the outstanding Jungle Island theme of giving guests access to, and information about, animals while they stroll through rainforest settings.


Jungle Island Parrot (Photo by Lisa M. Ruth)
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Jungle Island is more of a theme/adventure park than a zoo.  The focus is foremost on entertaining visitors however there is a dedication educating the public about the many amazing creatures they have.

Throughout Jungle Island there are a variety of exhibits, shows, and individual encounters to be had. The setting of the Jungle is as impressive as the animals.  Plants are skillfully chosen.

There is a serene Japanese garden and a lovely Flamingo Lake.  A petting zoo and ”Hippo” water slide round out the offerings at the Jungle.  The park also boasts a ballroom and meeting facilities for hosting unique events.

However, the main focus of Jungle Island are the animals, and there are plenty of chances for all those “ahh” moments that make a day remarkable, such as:

• The more than 1,100 tropical birds at the park, in every color and variety, including parrots, African penguins, emus, condors, vultures, macaws, and the fabulous double-wattled Cassowary.

• The 900 pound liger (a mix between a male lion and a female tiger), Hercules, is the best-known mammal at the Jungle, but visitors can also see Bengal and White Tigers, skunks, kangaroos, wallabies, pot belly pigs, llamas, zebu, and pygmy goats.

• Amazing primates include Capuchin monkeys, lemurs, chimpanzees, orangutans, baboons, squirrel monkeys, and gibbons.

• Reptile-lovers have plenty to see at the park, too.  Hank, the resident “Crocosaurus” is a 35-year old Saltwater/Siamese crocodile hybrid and is the largest crocodilian in the Western hemisphere.  He weighs 2,000 pounds, and is 20 feet long.  But he is by no means the only reptile in the house.  There are also alligators and crocodiles, Burmese pythons, rattlesnakes, cobras, Pueblan Milk snakes, skinks, chameleons, Gila Monsters, and iguanas.

• Koi, catfish, gar, and Pacu inhabit the water exhibits at the Jungle.

Visitors should attend the three primary shows, Winged Wonders, Reptiles of the Jungle, and Tale of the Tiger.  All shows weave entertainment and education, guaranteed to wow even the most detached guest.


A Condor flies into the Winged Wonders show. (Photo by Lisa M. Ruth)
At Jungle Theater, every visit to the Tale of the Tiger show will introduce you to new members of the “Big Cat Family.”  Produced by T.I.G.E.R.S., The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (www.tigerfriends.com), the show highlights the importance of habitat conservation and social awareness of these, some of our most magnificent animals.

The message here is the three R’s – to Reduce consumption, Reuse and Recycle that which we use, and to always look toward Renewable Energy resources!

At Tale of the Tiger Black Panthers, Lynx, Cougars, Spotted Leopards and the famous “Liger,” a crossbred Lion/Tiger mix, may appear.  Other animals to meet at Tale of Tiger are the primates, Chimpanzees, Capuchins and even the wide-eyed Lemurs!
 
The park boasts multiple exhibits, and several opportunities for individual interaction with park inhabitants.

Check the park schedules and be sure to catch the Flamingo Feeding, Manu Encounter, Crocodile Care and Kangaroo Feedings that are offered daily.

Always fun for all ages is the chance to feed the friendly Lorikeets.

Other exhibits include “Creepy Crawly” for an up-close view of residents of the serpentarium, the 168-foot beachfront slide, interaction with the trainers and their animals around the park, the liger habitat, plant nursery, playground, primate exhibit and presentation, and the tortoise exhibit.

One exhibit to not be missed is Penguin Mania.  Here Jungle Island visitors can watch the merriment of African Penguins, or Spheniscus Demersus.  These animals are found of the coast of South African and Namibia and are “warm weather” birds that enjoy Miami’s tropical seasons.


South African Penguins (Photo by Lisa M. Ruth)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These animals are considered vulnerable to extinction by the World Wildlife Federation  and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds due to harvesting of their eggs for human consumption, loss of habitat due to pollution and encroachment and the removal the bat guano – used as a fertilizer – that the birds use to nest in.

One of the biggest threats to the birds are petrochemical spills as a result of accidents, like the sinking of the iron ore tanker MV Treasure in June, 2000, along with more minor spills and pollutants releases when tankers clean their tanks by flushing them with seawater, allowing the petrochemicals to be released into the water.

By bringing awareness of these warm-climate, coastal Africa birds to their visitors, Jungle Island is also educating people on the importance of animal habitat conservation.

The gardens at the park are exceptional.  Jungle horticulturists not only selected breathtaking centerpiece species and lush complimentary plants, but also planted two lawn areas and a Japanese garden in the park.

Flamingo Lake is a water exhibit featuring breeding Flamingos, fish, and other animals.  The Jungle Outpost is a comfortable lawn area for picnics and other events. 

One of the most amazing parts of Jungle Island is the lack of mosquitoes.  Horticulturalists successfully eradicated the pests using a natural Integrated Pest Management system that uses biological controls rather than pesticides.

A Bengel Tiger (Photo by Lisa M. Ruth)

Jungle Island’s fascinating animals, wonderful shows, exceptional staff, and beautiful landscaping make it a must-visit location for anyone in the Miami area. 

The unique presentation and setting of the Jungle gives visitors an unequalled perspective on animals, their habitat, and their behavior.


The 411:

Jungle Island
1111 Parrot Jungle Trail
Miami, Florida 33132
305-400-7000

Tickets are $27.95 + tax for adults and $21.95 plus tax for children 3-10.

Tips:  Definitely attend the three shows.  Guests should plan to spend 4 – 6 hours at the park.  Try to avoid July and August

because of extreme heat.