With support from its owners ESJ Capital Partners, Jungle Island has found its orangutan family a new loving home. All five apes, including 16-year-old twins Peanut and Pumpkin, were safely transported on Friday, September 18 to the Center for Great Apes where several family members reside. The Center for Great Apes is a non-profit sanctuary for orangutans and chimpanzees, located on more than 100 secluded acres in Wauchula, Florida.
As Jungle Island moves forward with the next phase of a multi-million-dollar transformation to become Miami’s premier eco-adventure and entertainment destination, park leaders determined that relocating the attraction’s celebrated ambassadors would be in the best interest and welfare of the animals. “Along with Jungle Island’s veterinarian and the orangutans’ caretaker, we feel this is the right decision for the orangutans,” said Micha Dubernard, Chief of Staff at ESJ Capital Partners, which acquired Jungle Island in April 2017. “It was important to us that we find a facility where they can be together and stay as a family, as well as receive unrivaled care. They are in a peaceful, tranquil environment and will always be cherished in the stories shared with guests at Jungle Island.”
In July 2012, Peanut gained national recognition when she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and nursed back to health with the help of world-class care and chemotherapy generously provided by the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Peanut has a fraternal twin sister, Pumpkin, which is a rarity in the animal kingdom. The other three orangutans that relocated to the Center for Great Apes are Hanna, Sinbad and Connie.
“We are thrilled to welcome all five orangutans to our great ape family,” said Patti Ragan, Center for Great Apes’ founder and director. “We’ve enjoyed working with ESJ Capital Partners and the leadership team at Jungle Island to ensure a seamless transition for these extraordinary animals. Just like at Jungle Island, they will receive individualized and compassionate care.”
The Center for Great Apes is now home to 28 orangutans and 31 chimpanzees. The sanctuary is known for its innovative approach to caring for primates. In addition to providing a life with dignity, the sanctuary is designed to allow the apes options and choices of space and companions. The tall habitats are three and four stories (32-40 ft.) in height, and the apes can stroll through the woods through a mile-long aerial trailway system towards various habitats and see others of their species. These elevated walkways allow the apes to explore, walk to the health clinic, interact with one another, and change habitats. The apes are provided with many enrichment activities, a vital component to their care, as they are highly intelligent and creative.
“As their human mother, I know that their futures will be bright at the Center for Great Apes,” said Linda Jacobs, who is the orangutans’ longtime caretaker at Jungle Island. “Each ape at the Center is treated like an individual and with such compassion and integrity. It is important for animals that are so intelligent to have choices in their lives. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect situation and hope everyone will continue to follow their journey.”
Jungle Island will continue to conduct interactive animal experiences to teach the public about endangered lemurs, two-toed sloths, Australian red kangaroos and other rare animals. Additionally, Jungle Island will offer immersive all-day adventures in a jungle-like setting including a TreeWalk Village and new aerial adventure park, which debuts this fall.