Go Wild At Jungle Island
An Inside Look at Miami's Most Interactive Animal Park
Experience a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get up close and personal with several exotic animals at Jungle Island, Miami’s premier destination for wildlife. Jungle Island is unique for a number of reasons, but most importantly, it is not even considered a zoo. “While it is a zoological collection of animals, we are the most interactive animal park in the world,” says Vice President of Zoological Operations, Dr. Jason Chatfield. “That is the major factor of why people come here; it’s what we’re known for.”
Jungle Island is a smaller park, Chatfield explains and it’s not necessarily a breeding facility. The park maintains great relationships with other facilities that do breed animals, for example, kangaroos and lemurs, and that is where a large collection of the animals come from. A bond is established between trainer and animal from a very early age. “Kangaroos are fed, in a pouch [mimicking that of a real kangaroo mom] by a bottle with a specialized nipple. The keepers hold the animals and the animals are bonded to the keepers. They feel that trust and compassion.” Chatfield has bonded with many of the animals himself ranging from an orangutan that he helped save from cancer to a 200-something-pound warthog named Ray.
The handler-to-animal bond is essential in this park because it has granted visitors the special opportunity to interact with these tame animals. “One really awesome experience is the lemur exhibit,” says Chatfield. “You go into the enclosure amongst the lemurs. They check you out and jump all over you. It’s an immersive experience.” Another interactive exhibit features kangaroos where you can walk into their enclosure to pet and feed them. “It’s an interesting phenomenon, the kangaroos are a lot softer than what you’d think.”
The park also offers different levels of VIP tours—perfect for those looking for an extremely in-depth, behind the scenes look at the park. Celebrity Hayden Panettiere raved about the tour on The Ellen Show; showing a photo of her with a giant yellow python around her shoulders and describing her experience with the lemurs.
In addition to the VIP Tours, there are also different shows featuring a variety of different animals—bird shows, cat shows, and menagerie shows. Allow at least four hours if you want to see all that Jungle Island has to offer and be prepared for a fun, immersive environment. As Chatfield describes, “You come here and you might end up with a monkey on your shoulder, or an owl or lizard. Who knows? It’s always a surprise.”
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