Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia will open the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium and Reptile Conservation Center on Thursday, March 2.
Through 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, according to a news release.
“It is a deep honor to support Riverbanks Zoo and Garden and their mission of conservation and education, said the Foundation’s Susan F. Boyd. “The new 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.
Guests at the Aquarium will be able to explore habitats such as temperate and tropical forests and deserts and wind their way from land to sea in an immersive journey. The highly anticipated aquarium project took four years from concept to completion.
The Aquarium will feature conservation labs that will showcase conservation work visitors could previously only experience on behind-the-scenes tours. The Coral Lab will feature the role Riverbanks plays in protecting coral reefs, showcasing colonies of corals that were rescued off the coast of Florida near Key West in partnership with the federal government, local governments and other zoological institutions, according to the release.
In the Terrestrial Lab, guests can view endangered reptiles and amphibians from around the globe. The space will also highlight Riverbanks’ work supporting populations of geckos from around the world and collaborative projects protecting South Carolina’s endangered wildlife.
The Conservation Center will house a new desert biome highlighting arid habitats of the Western hemisphere, especially the desert Southwest. It will feature a variety of desert dwellers including tortoises, rattlesnakes, Gila monsters, thick-billed parrots and burrowing owls.
Guests will also be able to enjoy floor-to-ceiling views of reptiles, including the alligator snapping turtle, cottonmouth, bushmaster and green anaconda. There will also be a giant wall of moon jellies and a giant Pacific octopus named Susan in honor of Mrs. Boyd because it is her favorite animal, according to the release.
“This is a major step toward achieving our mission to create meaningful connections, inspire action and ultimately make a lasting impact on conversation not only in South Carolina but across the globe,” said Tommy Stringfellow, president and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden.
This is the second project in phase one of Riverbanks’ vision to build a “Bridge to the Wild.” Phase one also includes the white rhino habitat which opened in 2020, significant improvements to aging infrastructure and additional animal habitats that will be announced later in the year.
The Aquarium and Reptile Conservation Center will be open during normal Riverbanks hours and is included with general admission and membership at the zoo.