Originally founded in 1936 by Franz & Louise Scherr, Parrot Jungle was one of the first tourist attractions established in the Miami area. The idea for Parrot Jungle began after Scherr, who owned and operated a feed and supply store in Homestead, became intrigued with the idea of building an attraction where birds would "fly free". Scherr leased 22 acres (89,000 m2) of hammock land for an annual fee of $25. Parrot Jungle was built as a winding nature trail dug through the coral rock and hammock land, indigenous to the area. All the natural plants were left undisturbed. The entrance was built on Red Road.
The attraction opened on December 20, 1936, to about 100 visitors. Each paid 25 cents admission to see and hear Scherr talk about his birds, trees and flowers. Since 1936, over a million visitors have visited Parrot Jungle. Among its many famous visitors was Sir Winston Churchill, film director Steven Spielberg, and former US President Jimmy Carter. On December 17, 2002, the Village of Pinecrest purchased the Parrot Jungle with the aim of developing the site as Pinecrest Gardens. On March 8, 2003 the Pinecrest Village Council dedicated Pinecrest Gardens and officially opened it to the public as the Village's newest municipal park, without the animals that had made the park famous. The actual attraction moved to a new waterfront location on Watson Island between Downtown Miami and South Beach. It opened on June 28, 2003 as Parrot Jungle Island.
On June 28, 2007, four years after the park first opened at its bayfront location, Jungle Island became the official name.
Jungle Island's southern cassowary, Mama Cass, jumps in the air for an apple, which she swallows whole, in front of an audience.
The theme park's landmark are its sails covering the Jungle Theater, an arena where visitors encounter wildlife from all over the world. On the other side of the theater lives Hercules, the 900-pound liger, a cross between a lion and a tiger. The park is also home to a trained bird show at the Parrot Bowl, and an exhibition of reptiles, penguins, flamingos and other animals at the Serpentarium.
In the Parrot Bowl, Jungle Island's "Winged Wonders" show highlights birds from around the world, including the Andean condor, cassowary (the only trained cassowary in the world), and king vulture.
The Jungle Theater has the "Tale of the Tiger" show, featuring large cats and wildlife.
In recent years Jungle Island has taken center stage on the greater Miami and the beaches environmental movement. In addition to avoiding the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, Jungle Island purchases carbon credits to offset special events. Jungle Island also plays host to a number of large environmental conferences and events - including the annual Gateway To Green, Energy Smart Florida, and Earth Miami.