Jungle Island, Miami’s premier entertainment destination, combines the beauty of Miami’s tropical landscape with a jungle full of extraordinary animals from around the globe. Building upon its rich 75-year history, today’s Jungle Island is a contemporary theme park, featuring extremely rare twin orangutans and over 300 vibrant birds, including the world’s only trained Cassowary .
Jungle Island history began its history in 1936 as Parrot Jungle. Created by Franz Scherr with the idea of an attraction where birds could “fly free,” Parrot Jungle was originally located in south Miami and was known primarily its wide array of exotic birds including Pinky, the high-wire bicycle riding cockatoo, and our world-famous pink flamingos who have been prominently featured in the opening credits of television’s Miami Vice.
The park has evolved over the years under the direction of its current owners who purchased the park in 1988. After Hurricane Andrew, the owners set their sights on continuing to develop the park on Watson Island. After construction was completed in 2003, the Watson Island location opened for business as Parrot Jungle Island.
The evolution of the Jungle has led to the renaming of the park as Jungle Island to better encompass the wide variety of animals, plants and activities available.
Jungle Island lives up to its name with unusual flora, from the extraordinary African sausage tree to a collection of rare cycads. Visitors to Jungle Island can stroll along the 1.35 miles of winding, covered trails while enjoying the many special exhibits, attractions and tours that are available. As Miami’s brightest and most unique destination, Jungle Island continues to delight the thousands of people who visit Miami each year.
Jungle Island History: A South Florida Tradition for 75 Years
• December 20, 1936 – Franz Scherr opens Parrot Jungle to the public for the first time.
• 1939 – The first bird “show” is introduced to the Jungle. Pop, a blue and gold macaw, does tricks for guests.
• 1940 – Franz Scherr officially purchases the property that housed Parrot Jungle for $5,000.
• 1946 – Winston Churchill visits Parrot Jungle and is given a VIP tour. After being gifted two turkey during a stop in Texas, Churchill would “gift” the bird to Franz Scherr to display at Parrot Jungle.
• 1947 – The original Flamingo Lake is created. The Scherr family was so proud of the new addition that two of the Scherr children would stage their weddings there in 1953 and 1956.
• 1955 – The new entrance complex is open! Designed by Tony Sherman, the new entrance structure includes a large gift shop, restaurant, offices and storage. The old entrance would become a snack bar.
• Mid-1960s – the bird shows at Parrot Jungle move to the “big top.” Shows are now performed in the Parrot Bowl and grow in size and in performance ability of the birds.
• 1963-1964 – Pinky, the bicycle riding Cockatoo, travels to the World’s Fair and becomes one of the most photographed birds in history.
• 1973 – Franz Scherr, the founding father of Parrot Jungle, passes away.
• 1982 – The world’s first Lear’s macaw is born in captivity at Parrot Jungle. The birth would make headlines around the world.
• 1980s – Several motion pictures are filmed at Parrot Jungle including Police Academy. The television series, “Miami Vice” would also feature the park’s flamingos in the opening credits. Two of the park’s Macaws were also loaned to Jimmy Buffett who would feature them on his greatest hits album, “Songs you know by heart.” (1985)
• 1988 – Dr. Bern and Mary Levine and Richard Schubot purchase Parrot Jungle from the Scherr family. The name is changed that year to “Parrot Jungle and Gardens” to more fully represent the world-class level of the grounds.
• 1989 – Levine sets up Parrot Jungle’s first Primate section with orangutans, Hannah, Millie and Jake.
• 1992 – Hurricane Andrew hits Miami. Despite the damage to the park, not a single animal was lost during the storm.
• 1995 –Parrot Jungle and Gardens is registered as a historic location within Miami-Dade County. That same year, a formal announcement is made regarding the decision to move the park to Watson Island.
• 2000 – Construction begins on Watson Island for the new Parrot Jungle. The 17-acre facility would include covered parking, a restaurant, gift shop, offices and the long sought after banquet and conference facilities.
• 2000 – Mr. Ronald Krongold becomes operational partner of Jungle Island and its Treetop Ballroom.
• 2002 – The City of Pinecrest purchases the Red Road location with the aim of developing the site as Pinecrest Gardens.
• April 12, 2003 – The grand opening Gala for the Treetop Ballroom is held. The gala is a benefit for the New World School of the Arts.
• June 28, 2003 – The newly re-named, Parrot Jungle Island, opens to the public on Watson Island.
• 2003 – The Tiger/Liger exhibit officially opens. Previously, the big cats were featured in the Tale of the Tiger show.
• 2003 – Hank the Crocosaurus arrives on Jungle Island to much fan-fare! Hank measured a whopping 20 feet! He is still remembered as one of the park’s most famous residents.
• 2006 – Twin Orangutans, Peanut and Pumpkin, celebrate their 3rd birthday!
• 2007 – 4 years after the park opened on Watson Island, the name is officially changed to Jungle Island to better encompass the wide variety of animals who call the park home.
• 2008 – Jungle Island hosts Fun and Fit as a Family, part of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, for the first year.
• 2011 – The park opens a brand new leopard exhibit housing a melanistic leopard and a spotted leopard.
• December 20, 2011 – Jungle Island proudly celebrates its 75th Anniversary!
Data and information on this post originally published at jungleisland.com