Monkeys in the trees.

Monkey Jungle: Where the Humans Should Be Caged?

Another battle is brewing at beleaguered Monkey Jungle. A 450-pound silverback gorilla named King is the latest flashpointfor this seminal Florida attraction, which has weathered repeated assaults from animal rights activists in recent years.

There's irony here, as Monkey Jungle played with the man/monkey balance years ahead of its time. Visitors to the park are channeled through enclosed walkways that meander through its habitat, "Where The Humans Are Caged And The Animals Run Free!" True, at one time the monkeys ran free wearing space suits and Beatles wigs, but today they're allowed to just be monkeys. Still, this is apparently not enough for 1990s activist sensibilities.

Entrance to Monkey Jungle. The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, backed by scientist Jane Goodall and a petition signed by 6,000 supporters, maintain that King the gorilla is unhappy and depressed in his Monkey Jungle home. They want him moved to ZooAtlanta in Georgia, where gorillas are given four acres to live and allowed to interact with one another.

Would King be happier with other gorillas than with his human friends at Monkey Jungle? Perhaps the protesters should recall what happened in Homestead six years ago, when it was ground zero for Hurricane Andrew. Thousands of people rode out the storm huddled in bathrooms or closets, mattresses piled on top of them as 175 mph winds ripped apart their homes.

The old days.
From the old days. We're pretty sure you'll never see this again.

Monkey Jungle was heavily damaged as well, but its 300 monkeys were safe -- due to quick action on the part of owners Sharon DuMond and her brother, Frank, who had evacuated the animals to Frank's house. According to a Reuters news report, Sharon recalled, "We walked through the front door and I saw all these little eyes looking back at me. And I said, 'Frank, we can rebuild this'."

Attendance at Monkey Jungle was reportedly approaching pre-Andrew levels when the King controversy erupted.

July 1999: Protests continue over the treatment of King at Monkey Jungle. Protestors have been sitting in tiny mock cages outside the park, mimicking the living conditions of the gorilla.

Animal rights activists on display in tiny cages only encourages more visitors, but these protestors are concerned about King's health (he bangs his head on the bars of his enclosure). And even if King stayed, Monkey Jungle would be hard-pressed to keep up with the current preservationist standards of adequate living space for gorillas. The Bronx Zoo just opened its 6.5 acre, $43 million "Congo Gorilla Forest," which contains 19 gorillas.

14805 SW 216 St., Miami, FL
Florida Turnpike exit 11 onto Cutler Ridge Blvd (SW 216 St.). West four miles, through several 4-way stops and a lot of emptiness. Monkey Jungle will be on the right, just past Naranja Rd.
Daily 9:30-4 (Virus outbreak may affect access to attraction. Call to verify.)
Adults $30.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
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