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Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia announces latest expansion plans

Christina Lee Knauss //May 10, 2023//

Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia announces latest expansion plans

Christina Lee Knauss //May 10, 2023//

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The future facility for Komodo dragons at Riverbanks Zoo will include more viewing space to observe the popular lizards. (Rendering/Provided)

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia is building a new, larger habitat for its popular Komodo dragons.

The expansion is the next step in phase one of the Zoo’s Bridge to the Wild development project, according to a news release. The expanded facility will offer more engaging, up-close views of the endangered lizards and more space in hopes of baby dragons in the future.

The project is funded by a bequest from the late Lloyd L. Liles  and Doris N. Liles.

"Komodo dragons are one of the most charismatic reptile species,” said Sean Foley, curator of herpetology at Riverbanks. “Creating a larger space with a multitude of new views for guests not only is exciting for Riverbanks and our community but also benefits the animals as a whole as we work toward the goal of having a long-term sustainable population.”

One of 238 institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’, Riverbanks collaborates with other AZA-accredited facilities in Species Survival Plan programs to ensure genetic diversity among animal populations in human care. The new facility will enhance the Zoo’s ability to breed, house and care for Komodo dragons as recommended by the survival plan.

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The zoo’s current pair of Komodo dragons hatched in 2011. When the siblings arrived at Riverbanks in November 2011 they weighed only a half pound each, according to information provided by the zoo Today, the male weighs nearly 120 pounds. Plans to obtain another male are in the works. The new habitat will offer more indoor space for the additional dragon plus room for future hatchlings. 

Phase One of Bridge to the Wild is a $32 million privately funded investment including a white rhino habitat, infrastructure improvements, and the new Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center, which opened to rave reviews in March and has been attracting large crowds.

This phase is made possible through Riverbanks’ earned revenue and in partnership with the State of South Carolina, The Boyd Foundation, Riverbanks Society, and private donors including the Liles’ legacy gift. An additional project announcement is slated for later this year.