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Protesters gather outside Monkey Jungle over alleged animal abuse

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Posted at 7:01 PM, Nov 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-19 19:01:05-05

A group of protesters lined up outside Monkey Jungle Sunday, weeks after a former employee accused the South Miami-Dade attraction abusing its animals.

Monkey Jungle, located in southern Miami-Dade County, is a wildlife park home to hundreds of animals, including monkeys, apes and birds.

Earlier this month, Melanie Lustig said she topped working at the establishment "because the conditions, in general, were abysmal ... for all the animals. The animal care never really came first there.”

Lustig said she posted pictures online to show the deplorable conditions in which the animals live.

The 30-acre animal park has been shut down ever since Hurricane Irma swept through South Florida in September. On Sunday, protesters with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida were looking to make that closure a permanent one.

"As a child, I may have come here once or twice," said Gini Hall, protester. "I’m 60 years old. We didn’t know, we had no idea."

Hall is one of nearly 50 roadside protesters refusing to back down, calling the more than 80-year-old attraction, antiquated.

"They need to go to a sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives," Hall said. "Nobody needs to live in a small cage."

A statement released by Monkey Jungle Sunday said, “At this point in King [the gorilla’s] life it would be dangerous to relocate him to another group of gorillas as he could easily be injured.”

But that answer is not good enough for communication director of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida Don Anthony, "There is nothing educational," he said. "Nothing entertaining about this."

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida has filed a complaint with the USDA calling for an investigation into “apparent violations” of the Animal Welfare Act. Inspection reports dating back to 2015 show no “non-compliant” violations.

"This is not a sanctuary by any means," Anthony said. "This is essentially a prison."

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Story courtesy of our news partners at NBCMiami.com.