Zowie! Lemurs antics entertain, orangutans delight at jungle park

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MIAMI -- Everyone loves the new baby, so when I visited Parrot Jungle Island, my guide took me first to the nursery. There I met Zowie, a young ringtailed lemur about eight inches tall.  

The primate, found in the wild only in Madagascar, gave me a stare, then leaped, spread-eagle, onto my head.

She was all energy and exuberance, springing around the room, from jungle gym to countertop to shoulders, heads and laps. Zip! my pen disappeared from my pocket. Zing! Zowie and pen rocketed to the top of the wall cabinet, out of reach.

These twin baby orangutans, Peanut and Pumpkin, live in Parrot Jungle IslandZowie shares the nursery with three other diapered roommates: a squirrel monkey named Simon and orangutan twins Peanut and Pumpkin.

With their orange hair and baby faces, the 1-year-old orangutans were irresistibly cute.

They are problem-solvers, said Serena Moss, supervisor of the primate section, although no one could solve the problem with the lemur.

When Peanut and Pumpkin mature, they will join their elders, Hanna (after TV host and animal expert Jack Hanna) and Jake (after Jakarta), in the primate area of the park.

Parrot Jungle Island is located off the Interstate 395 causeway between Miami and Miami Beach. Its grounds cover eight acres, including two miles of trails.

While not nearly as high-profile as the big Orlando parks, Parrot Jungle Island offers an increasingly rare attraction: an amazing range of wildlife from Bengal tigers to Malaysian bear cats to Arctic wolves along with a childrens area and petting zoo.

What makes us different from zoos is that we let the guests get close to the animals, said Stephen Beatus, vice president and COO. We also have shows featuring tigers, chimps, baboons, birds and reptiles. And then there are the real stars for whom the park was named: rainbow-colored parrots of every genus.

Another big attraction is Hank the Crocosaurus, a 20-foot, chicken-eating crocodile from Thailand with a head three feet wide.

Parrot Jungle offers shows in three venues: the Parrot Bowl, the Jungle Theater and Wild Animal Encounter.

Among its other features are a re-created Everglades ecosystem, a serpentarium, venues for functions and weddings and a cafe.

The park attracted 100,000 students in groups in 2003. There were 600 students at the park the day I was there.  Parrot Jungle works with educational and senior groups as well as hotels.

The park is located at 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami. Admission is $24.95 for adults and $19.95 for children. Group and senior discounts are available, as well.

Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. For more information, call (305) 2-JUNGLE or visit www.parrotjungle.com.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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