Having moved to southern Indiana as a young mom back in 1997, I missed a lot of really cool things that are no longer around. One of which was going to Mesker Park Zoo and seeing the Monkey Ship with actual monkeys playing in and around it.

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What was the Monkey Ship at Mesker Park Zoo?

According to the Courier and Press,

The Monkey Ship opened in 1933, a 1/3 scale, concrete replica of Columbus’ flagship the Santa Maria. It was designed to house monkeys and opened with 18 rhesus monkeys that called the ship home from the months of April to November. In later years, capuchins and lemurs were added, and young alligators once swam in the moat surrounding the ship.

I'm lucky that social media posts allow me to see things and learn more about things like the Monkey Ship. People share their memories and old photos. Like this great photo, I saw on Facebook from Kathy Mominee Maxwell.

Kathy Mominee Maxwell/Facebook/
Kathy Mominee Maxwell/Facebook/
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I love monkeys. Watching them play is my favorite part of the zoo. I wish I could have seen this in person.

When did the Monkey Ship at Mesker Park Zoo close?

The Monkey Ship shut down in 1991 and the monkeys were moved to more natural habitats. (Wikipedia)

Describing a more recent experience at Mesker Park Zoo, after seeing a ship and no monkeys, a little boy had this explanation as to why. The Courier and Press went on to say,

One young boy made monkey noises as he piloted his bumper boat around the pool in which the ship sits. Another child pondered why there were no more monkeys, eventually arriving at the conclusion that they must have been expelled for throwing their, well, you-know-what at zoo visitors.

I like the way that kid thinks. He's going places. LOL

The Monkey Ship at Mesker Park Zoo makes it to Hollywood

The Mesker Park Monkey Ship even made it to Hollywood. In the movie, Lolita, and the Russian novel it was based on, the main character makes reference to visiting an Indiana zoo during their travels,

Humbert Humbert is describing sights he and Lolita had seen as they traveled across the country, including "(a) zoo in Indiana where a large troop of monkeys lived on the concrete replica of Christopher Columbus' flagship...

- Dave Cory 

What is the Monkey Ship at Mesker Park Zoo now?

Now, the ship is used as the centerpiece in a floating bumper car experience at Mesker Park Zoo. But I know that a parent or grandparent is watching their kids on the water attraction and dreaming of the monkeys.

Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your awesome photo with us.

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