Zoo to open new features March 2

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden will open the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center March 2.

Thanks to the support of The Boyd Foundation, the multi-million-dollar renovations will transform the heart of the Zoo into a state-of-the-art animal care facility — providing guests with an experience that places Riverbanks’ role in wildlife conservation at the front and center.

“It is a deep honor to support Riverbanks Zoo and Garden and their mission of conservation and education,” said Susan F. Boyd of The Boyd Foundation. “The new Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center will transport visitors through a variety of habitats, show the impact of conservation efforts, and encourage simple actions to protect our ecosystems and wildlife. It’s important for us to understand our critical roles in conservation and how we can all do our part.”

Once open, guests will be able to explore temperate and tropical forests, trek through the desert and wind their way from land to sea in an immersive journey with new discoveries around every turn. The aquarium project took four years from concept to completion and will feature:

• Conservation Labs: New and conservation labs will showcase conservation work that was previously only experienced during behind-the-scenes tours.
• Coral Lab: Guests will have an up-close view of the critical role Riverbanks plays in protecting coral reefs. The coral lab showcases colonies of corals that were rescued off the coast of Florida near Key West in partnership with the federal government, local governments and many other zoological institutions.
• Terrestrial Lab: In the terrestrial lab, guests can view endangered reptiles and amphibians from around the globe. Additionally, the space will highlight Riverbanks’ work supporting populations of geckos from around the globe and collaborative projects protecting South Carolina’s most endangered wildlife.

• New Desert Biome
 – The conservation center will house a brand-new desert biome highlighting arid habitats of the Western hemisphere, especially in the desert southwest.
 – This immersive habitat will feature a variety of desert dwellers, including tortoises, rattlesnakes, and Gila monsters as well as thick-billed parrots and burrowing owls.

• Other Highlights
– Guests will see new floor-to-ceiling views of some of their favorite reptilian residents, including the alligator snapping turtle, cottonmouth, bushmaster and green anaconda.
– Visitors will also see a giant wall of moon jellies.
– In the coming weeks, guests will have the opportunity to meet a giant Pacific octopus named Susan, in honor of Mrs. Boyd and her favorite animal.

“The new Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center is a major step toward achieving our mission to create meaningful connections, inspire action, and ultimately, make a lasting impact on conservation, not only in South Carolina but across the globe,” said Tommy Stringfellow, president and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. “Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Boyd Foundation, we are making significant strides in phase one of our vision for the future, Bridge to the Wild, which will fundamentally change the way guests experience wildlife and connect with nature at Riverbanks.”

The opening of the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center is the second project in phase one of Riverbanks’ vision to build a Bridge to the Wild. Phase one, a $32 million dollar investment, includes the white rhino habitat that opened in 2020, significant improvements to aging infrastructure, and additional animal habitats that will be announced later in the year.

The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center will be open during normal Riverbanks hours and is included with general admission and membership.

Visit Riverbanks.org to learn more and plan your visit.

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