Many of us have a habit of not always checking out the sights in our own backyard so to speak, and my plan for all those “day trips” in tourist attraction-heavy Florida became bogged down in everyday activites. Certainly I scoot out to dive when I can and we have made it around to a number of places. Some we save for when we have visitors, but others are still on the “get around to it” list. Monkey Jungle is one of those places and when I dashed out the other day to do a interview, I returned home and told my husband that we really needed to go back.
It is a fascinating story that began in the 1920s when an artist in New York, Jospeh DuMond, decided to follow his dream of studying primates. He packed his family into a Model-T and in the latter part of the 1920s, the Redlands of South Florida was far removed from New York by more than geography. It really did resemble a jungle and Joe’s idea was that the climate was conducive to monkeys establishing a territory for themselves. He started with 6 Java monkeys and as he predicted, they quickly made themselves at home in the lush foliage. He wanted to expand his work, but money was hard to come by in the middle of the Depression. He started giving tours and while that brought in money, the monkeys didn’t like the intrusion. DuMond hit on the idea of screened-in walkways for the visitors, giving rise to the tagline of, “Monkey Jungle – Where Humans are Caged and Monkeys Run Wild”. The pitch worked and he was able to expand to 30 acres; his son later collaborating to create an Amazon Rainforest. There are 400 primates today of more than 30 species, to include a project helping restore the population of Golden Lion Tamarins.
The grandaughter, Sharon, is the third generation and although her brother is also involved, she is the very hands-on person. She was delightful to interview and it is an intriguing place. Most leading primatologists have studied at or visited this uncaged habitat. As Sharon said, they strive to educate through entertainment and they have a variety of programs to interest all ages. Their website is http://www.monkeyjungle.com