"Where the humans are caged and the monkeys run wild" - it's more than a catch-phrase. Monkey Jungle in southern Miami-Dade County is a truly unique park. While homo sapiens walk through carefully constructed wire pathways, many species of primates scamper above your head, swing through trees and interact with each other in ways difficult to observe in captivity. Keep your eyes open; you never know who's hanging around!
Monkey Jungle was started in 1935 when Joseph DuMonds and his wife brought the first six monkeys to this 10-acre plot to observe them living in their natural habitat. He chose Florida because its climate and ecology are very similar to their native home, Southeast Asia. When he started letting interested visitors into the park, he knew he could never cage his monkeys. If humans wanted to come, they would have to be the ones in cages! Today, the 30-acre Monkey Jungle is still owned and operated by Joseph DuMonds' son, Frank. Research and observation of these free-range monkeys has led to some definitive works on primate behavior.
The park is well-organized with three demonstrations, each highlighting one of the major areas of the park- the wild monkey swimming pool, the Orang Utans, and the Amazonian Rainforest. The rainforest was in its prime in the early nineties. With the foliage and climate, it actually captured low-lying clouds and made its own weather systems with enough daily rainfall to be an actual rainforest. Hurricane Andrew destroyed it, and although it is making a comeback, it still has some time to go before it's as splendid as it was.
One of the more fun activities at Monkey Jungle is feeding the monkeys. You can purchase peanuts and dried fruit at the entrance and leave treats for the monkeys in hanging baskets. They're never far away, and they keep an eagle eye on those baskets- as soon as food is deposited, they run over, pull the basket up to the caged "roof", and dig out the treats. But be careful- a hungry monkey almost dropped a basket on my head as I walked by!
Monkey Jungle is open daily from 9:30 - 5:00. For more information, call (305) 235-1611 or visit Monkey Jungle on the web. Have fun, but be careful- it's a jungle out there!