Hard Hat Updates

Now Open!

FINALLY! The ribbon has been cut and the doors are officially OPEN for guests to come and experience the Darnall W and Susan F Boyd Aquarium and Reptile Conservation Center.
We cannot wait to share our strides in conservation with guests visiting from near and far!
But that's not all! We have more exciting developments to be announced in the coming months. Stay tuned to social media and our website at riverbanks.org for updates!


Wrapping Things Up!

We are just two days away from the grand opening of the Darnall W and Susan F Boyd Aquarium and Reptile Conservation Center! Members are welcome to join us today, Tuesday, February 28th, until 5:00pm. The much-anticipated conservation center will open to the public on Thursday, March 2nd at 11:00am. We are thrilled to share this new experience with our members and guests and appreciate your patience along the way!

Taking Flight in the Desert Aviary

Keepers say our thick-billed parrots and burrowing owls are settling into their new home in the Desert Biome of the Darnall W and Susan F Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center. The reimagined conservation center is set to open to the public on March 2, 2023!

Growing Out

Our new moon jellies are currently being housed backstage in grow-out tanks. The tanks serve as the jellies' temporary habitat while animal care staff continue to fine-tune their permanent home. Can't wait to watch them float and drift about inside the soon-to-open Darnall W and Susan F Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center!


Establishing New Roots

Our horticulture and animal teams are hard at work planting and theming to help bring our new desert biome to life. Reptiles and birds also are being introduced to the area and adjusting to their new desert digs!


Digging In

Our radiated tortoises have been introduced into their new home along the ARCC boardwalk. After a "quick" lap around the yard, they began snacking on vegetation and digging nests in the new habitat! Guests visiting the Zoo will be able to see radiated tortoises daily as they continue to settle in. Stay tuned for more updates on the final phases of ARCC construction!


Conservation Coming to Life

Soon guests will have the opportunity to witness our team, firsthand, providing excellent care to some of the littlest residents in the ARCC Nursery. Visitors will see with their own eyes the daily work of the animal care team as they make continued strides in conservation. 


Habitat Identification

While supply chain issues continue to delay the opening of the new Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center,  we are making progress in many areas. We’ve installed our larger graphics and will continue to add animal IDs in the coming weeks about the amazing animals and habitats represented within the ARCC. If critical electrical components come in this month, we should be able to open in December. We are working so hard to get the Conservation Center open as soon as possible, and we are so grateful for everyone's support and understanding!

Brushing Backdrops

Muralists Allison and Christine add their personal touch inside the Tropical Forest Biome. These lush green hand-painted landscapes will soon be the backdrop for dart frogs, tree monitors, vipers and more! As habitats are completed, animals will be moved into their new homes to adjust before the Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center officially opens later this year. (We can't wait!)

Striking Scenery

Animal habitats like the rattlesnake exhibit in the Desert Biome are slithering closer to completion. The desert mural in the habitat is now coiled with color offering a brilliant backdrop to the exhibit’s striking design. The Desert Biome will highlight the rattlesnake exhibit and other habitats within the Western Hemisphere like arid areas of the desert southwest.

Desert Developments

Glass is now being installed in the desert biome. The exhibit will be home to various animals including several snake species like the Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes can be found in many habitats within the Western Hemisphere, especially in arid habitats of the desert southwest. The desert biome will highlight this ecosystem with the addition of a dedicated rattlesnake exhibit.

Branching Out

Trees continue to branch out as the Temperate Forest takes root inside the Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center. The habitat will be home to a variety of reptiles including alligator snapping turtles and various lizard and snake species.

Slithering Along

Construction is slithering along in Riverbanks' new green anaconda habitat. The Zoo is home to three green anacondas. A member of the boa family, the green anaconda is considered the largest snake in the world. These reptiles can weigh more than 550 pounds, measure more than 12 inches in diameter, and grow longer than 29 feet. 

Drifting In

We are excited to announce the arrival of our new moon jelly tank. Imagine seeing hundreds of moon jellies inside this glowing gallery. The captivating creatures are named for their translucent, moon-like bell. Instead of long trailing tentacles, the moon jelly has short tentacles that sweep food toward the mucous layer on the edge of the bell. These jellyfish also are super adaptable and can live in warm or cold waters and travel in social groups called smacks.

Forming the Framework

Construction crews have formed the framework for the walkway leading to the entrance of the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center. Over the next several months, the spacious entry will transform into the lush landscape shown below.

The Shell of a Habitat

Over the last few weeks, shotcrete has been added to several habitats as progress continues inside the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center. These photos show the shell of the new snapping turtle exhibit. The Zoo is home to one Alligator snapping turtle. Other native fishes also will be cared for in this habitat.

Who Who is New?

Who who is new at the Zoo? These four burrowing owls. The birds are currently being cared for off habitat until their new aviary inside the Conservation Center is complete. The aviary will be housed inside the desert bio-dome in the old tropical gallery.

Expansive Entrance

Construction crews are making steady progress on the expansive new entrance to the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center. The transformation will offer a pathway for guests to visit a variety of aquatic and desert species such as green tree monitors. For now, these remarkable reptiles (also pictured below) are hanging out behind-the-scenes until their new habitats are complete.

Not Dragon Around

Crews aren't "dragon" around with construction on new animal habitats including the home of this young bearded dragon. Currently, this little guy is being cared for behind-the-scenes as the bearded dragon exhibit takes shape. The second photo shows the current stage of progress.

Taking Root

The tree in the top image has taken root inside the Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center as the Temperate Forest habitat continues to bud. The bottom photo shows this tree's first stage of development. The Temperate Forest will be home to a variety of reptiles including alligator snapping turtles and various lizard and snake species.

A Wave of Progress

The Boyer Construction crew is hard at work making a wave of progress on the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium and Reptile Conservation Center. Recognize this area? The photo shows the entrance closest to the Zoo's former stingray and anaconda exhibits and the future home of desert habitats that will feature a variety of scaly species such as western rattlesnakes, iguanas, and Gila monsters.

Joining Our Flock

The Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center is slated to welcome some new feathered friends. Our Bird Department has been busy making plans and preparing for upcoming arrivals of individuals that will call this new habitat home. Some of these endangered desert loving species will include masked bobwhite quails and thick-billed parrots. 

Glowing Gallery

We are thrilled to construct an entire jelly gallery inside the Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center. These alien-looking creatures are named for their translucent, moon-like bell. Instead of long trailing tentacles, the moon jelly has short tentacles that sweep food toward the mucous layer on the edge of the bell. Just imagine the incredible view of seeing hundreds of these glowing moon jellies. Stay tuned for more updates!

Slithering into a Temporary Home

We heard from many guests and members when the original Aquarium-Reptile Complex closed that they were worried the green anaconda was leaving. Not to fear, the green anacondas are remaining at Riverbanks and will enjoy a new space within the Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center. In fact, during this construction period our largest female anaconda has taken up temporary residence inside our animal hospital.

Corals in Crisis

The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center will highlight some of Riverbanks' backstage conservation efforts. One example is our critical role in the Florida Reef Tract Rescue Project. Since 2019, Zoo aquarists have been caring for nearly 40 coral colonies that were rescued off the coast of Florida near Key West. The vast majority of corals along the 360-mile stretch have been destroyed by an unknown disease.

“Riverbanks is among select land-based facilities housing and caring for unaffected stony corals while researchers try to better understand the disease, its impact on the FRT, and how future outbreaks can be prevented,“ said Jennifer Rawlings, aquarium curator at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. “Our members and guests will now have the rare opportunity to witness the propagation of these animals as part of the new coral conservation lab.”

Desert Biome

Demolition has continued throughout the building this month! But even with all the changes happening inside, we know you'll recognize where these photos were taken. This redesigned area will soon be home to our new Desert Biome. It might be challenging to picture now, but eventually this area will be home to various cacti, rattlesnakes, tortoises, Gila monsters, and many more desert species! 

Newest Little Addition

Introducing Destiny: Riverbanks' newest little green sea turtle.

She was hatched last month on the beach in Garden City, South Carolina. Sea turtle nesting volunteers collected her to live at Riverbanks as part of our partnership with South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Unlike other tiny hatchlings, Destiny will have a greater chance to survive into adulthood, whereas most sea turtle hatchlings have a 1 in 1,000 likelihood to grow into adulthood.

For the next two years Riverbanks will provide a safe home for Destiny, free from pollution and predators so that she can grow big and strong. Then just like our last temporary green sea turtle resident, Journey, this newest little addition will be released into the ocean too.

For now Destiny is behind-the-scenes, away from the construction, but we'll make sure to keep y'all updated on her growth and development over the coming months.


Demolition Continues

Interior demolition continued through October, and some initial work started on mechanical, electrical and plumbing. Can you identify the exhibit pictured in the photo on the left? Hint: You may have encountered it in the second "gallery."

Renovations are Underway

Demolition of the interior of the original Aquarium-Reptile Complex has begun. Do you recognize this area? Here's a hint: You may have seen a green anaconda in here!

We're Making Big Waves!

A huge thank you to everyone who joined us as we broke ground on the future home of the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center. The new venture will advance the Zoo's mission to protect and conserve endangered species in the state and beyond.