When Joseph DuMond, an inquisitive animal behaviorist, released six monkeys into the wilds of a dense South Florida hammock in 1933, he didn’t realize his endeavors would help shape the attitudes of many in the primatological and zoological fields. The release fifty years ago of that small Java troop signified the beginning of the larger thriving troop that runs free at Monkey Jngle today.
Located just off U.S. 1 in South Dade, Monkey Jungle was an innovator of many of the concepts currently seen in the design of zoological parks. It is home to nearly 400 primates, most running free on a 30 acre reserve. It is one of the few protected habitats for endangered primates in the United States and the only one that the general public can explore.
Visitors today are immediately welcome by the Java monkey troop, now numbering in the 80’s. The Java monkeys forage through the Jungle eating natural foods. This experience with the monkeys continues to be a highlight of Monkey Jungle. The Java monkey is a skilled diver in the wild, collecting crabs and other shellfish along the riverbanks and mangrove swamps. Scheduled feedings at Monkey Jungle show off these water skills as animals dive into a pool to receive fruit from the guides.
As part of the park’s continuing effort to promote the understanding of primates, Monkey Jungle has given a new look introducing audiences to the lifestyle of the orangutan. Always unpredictable, the audience often witnesses impromptu acts by these lovable apes.
A total of 30 species of primates are represented at Monkey Jungle including gibbons, guenons, spider monkeys and colobus. The Golden Lion Tamarin is native to the Brazilian jungle. Threatened with extinction, Monkey Jungle proudly participates in an international effort to save the tiny creature.
Monkey Jungle and Wings of Love Foundation, a non-profit organization, have created a sanctuary for captive parrots that are displaced or can no longer be cared for by their owners. When people want to find a home for their pets, Wings of Love will ""adopt"" the birds.
The birds are housed in huge, free-flight geodesic domes with suitable companions and grouped with other native species from their particular region of the world. The domes are furnished with natural foliage to add interest and security for the birds.
The birds will not be sold or bred for commercial purposes. However, should a viable organized reintroduction program become available for a specific species we will consider initiating a breeding program with the goal of reintroducing domestically bred offspring into the wild.
So come to Monkey Jungle and see all of our beautiful birds and get to know a little bit about each of them!
Amazonian Rain Forest
Now the reason why our Rainforest is so successful is because Mr. Frank DuMond spent over 5 years collecting hundreds of different species of plants, trees and palms from the Amazon rainforest in South America.
Most of the plants you see here today came from within a 100-mile radius of Iquitos, Peru. And, while Southern Florida normally gets around 60 inches of rain a year, it rains about 180 inches a year around Iquitos, so Monkey Jungle has an irrigation system, which makes up the difference. As in the wild, Monkey Jungle has its share of predators, including hawks, raccoons, and yellow rat snakes. But they are fair game as well, some monkeys, such as, Coco and his group will eat meat and that includes baby raccoons and opossums. There are three species of monkeys residing here.
The monkeys that live in this rainforest come and go as they please – we do not have any direct control over them. For this reason, Monkey Jungle’s Rainforest is a great place for scientific study of primates. Many studies have been done here in the past, and some have gained international attention.
By having their home restricted to this large forest, researchers and people like yourselves can observe these monkeys behaving as they would in the wild without having to travel outside the U.S.
There is no place else like this in the country.
The monkeys that you can observe when you visit Monkey Jungle‘s rainforest are:
(Jordan, Patricia, and Ruby)
They are the largest animals found here. Jordan is the largest of the three is brown and Ruby is the smaller; she is a light golden brown color. They are called howler monkeys because, by way of example, every morning Jordan wakes up and howls his lungs out. Actually it sounds more like a roar than a howl and this is a territorial sound that Jordan makes to tell all the other animals in the forest that the forest is his territory; he is telling the others where he is and that they should stay clear!
This is a lot easier than fighting to maintain one’s territory. There are certain things that will set Jordan off such as low flying airplanes, thunderstorms, and quite often when a large group of people are in the rain forest: he perceives us as fellow monkeys who are invading his territory. This howl, which can be heard a mile’s distance, comes from Jordan’s bony voice box, which looks like an oversized pouch below his chin.
Another interesting are their tails, which are prehensile, that is their tails can grasp objects or grasp branches to hold their full body weight while they are feeding. These grasping tails are only found in New World primates, monkeys found in South and Central America.
No monkey from Africa or Asia has a tail like this. If you can get a close look at it you will also notice that the last 6-9 inches of the underside of his tail is just skin. This skin has fingerprints and each howler has a unique set of prints just as we humans have unique handprints. They can grasp objects as small as grapes so their tails function as third hands. Pretty handy when you live all your life in the trees.
They are the largest type of monkey found in our rainforest and as the name Black-capped indicates, they have black tufted fur on their heads.
This cap of fur is said be suggestive of the black peaked cowls of the Capuchin monks. Capuchins were once popular as organ grinder monkeys. They would stand on street corners or fair grounds and grind musical organs and beg for coins from the public. They are considered to be the most intelligent of New World primate and they often use and make tools in the wild. In fact, capuchins are being used in a pioneering program where they aid para – and quadriplegics. They are taught how to do many tasks that their owners cannot do, such as answering the door; getting food out of the refrigerator or books off the shelf; combing their owner’s hair; or turning the pages of a book. They, like howlers, have that helpful third hand: The prehensile tail. However, capuchins are very aggressive in the wild and will actively hunt for meat. Here Willy and crew will often captured the small birds which are caught in the walkways. Capunchins are also not well liked by most South American farmers since they are notorious for raiding their fields.
The most abundant monkey in our Rainforest, the small yellow monkeys are called squirrel monkeys.
We have about 125 of them here. These little guys have made Monkey Jungle internationally famous in the scientific community.
At one time, squirrel monkeys were imported extensively into the United States as research animals and as pets. When the zoos and research facilities tried to develop captive breeding programs they found there their squirrel monkeys were not having many babies – except at Monkey Jungle. Through study of the behavior and ecology of the monkeys at Monkey Jungle, Frank DuMond discovered a key to breeding the animal. He learned that for most of the year squirrel, monkeys live in single sex groups. Much like at a young teenage dance party, the guys hang out together separate from the girls until they get up the nerve to approach the girls. It is even trickier for a male squirrel monkey because the females are the dominant sex, not the males. The reason you see them together now is because they have come to feed at the common feeding stations, after they feed they will go their separate ways. At Monkey Jungle, January and February is the time of year when the girls and the guys get together because it’s the breeding season. The males go thru a physical change that causes a weight increase of almost 20% and makes them look like little Arnold Schwarzeneggers. At this time they become more aggressive and our able to work there way into the female group whereas at any other time of the year the girls would beat them up!! This fattened condition results from a surge in the male’s hormones. Once the breeding season ends, the males loose their added weight and size, shrinking back down to their normal size. The females kick the males out of their group and go on to bear their young. By the way, if you are wondering how to tell who is male and who is female, look at the tops of the heads. Females have black fur on their heads. Males, on the other hand, have just gray fur on their heads.
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