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Jungle Island getting a makeover to become a contemporary resort and attraction

There are big plans to transform Jungle Island into a brand new resort and attraction.

WATSON ISLAND, Fla. – There are big plans to transform Jungle Island into a brand new resort and attraction.

“When you walk through the gates, you will be immersed in a beautiful botanical garden filled with plenty of macaws and lots of adventure,” Curtis Crider, president and managing director of Jungle Island, said.

It is the beginning of a new chapter for Jungle Island, and the second incarnation of Miami-Dade County’s beloved 85-year-old tourist attraction Parrot Jungle.

“You’ll be able to zipline among the trees,” Crider said.

The reinvention consists of a proposal that includes a new resort hotel and an eco-adventure theme park. With spectacular views of Biscayne Bay and the Magic City skyline, there is also expected to be a lazy river and bungee experience. What Jungle Island won’t be anymore is a private zoo.

On Thursday, city of Miami commissioners voted unanimously to approve the change in zoning. It still has to pass a second meeting next month, but with voters already saying “yes” two years ago, it looks like there will be a new Jungle Island with no more large animals on display.

City of Miami Commissioner Ken Russell was instrumental in the park retiring its large mammals.

“My final ask was that they discontinue and they relocate the display of their large mammals and they agreed,” Russell said.

The park’s large mammals have been retired and are living in nature reserves around the country.

Gone are the tigers and the liger. Even the famous orangutan ambassadors have found a new forever home at the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Fla., a 120-acre tropical sanctuary near Tampa.

“It was very important to them that Sinbad, Connie, Peanut, Pumpkin and Hannah had a beautiful place to go to where they would be really happy and live out their days as orangutans should,” Russell said.

The trademark parrots, macaws, exotic birds and smaller animals like the lemurs will still call Jungle Island home, but the redesigned park is much more about the resort experience. The lynch pin of the new project is the new 300-room, 12-story hotel.

“The job creation here is going to be a key component and help elevate Miami,” Crider said.

Developers said the evolution of Jungle Island is in tune with a rapidly growing Miami

“What we’re doing is not only for now but for future generations to come and transforming Jungle Island into that eco adventure, premier destination,” Crider said.

If everything stays on target, Phase 1 of the new Jungle Island is expected to open in the Winter of 2022 and the hotel should be done by 2025.

About the Authors:

Louis Aguirre returned home to Miami and Local 10 in September 2017.

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.