Riverbanks Zoo and Garden officially opened its new state-of-the-art Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, March 2. The 20,000-square-foot attraction and educational facility transports guests on an immersive journey from land to sea — shining a light on conservation work at Riverbanks and much more.
The re-imagined Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center takes guests on an engaging land to sea journey with captivating views of some of the world’s most precious and endangered wildlife. More than 11,000 animals representing over 300 different species—17 of which are endangered—reside in the conservation center, including reptiles, amphibians, fishes, invertebrates and birds. Additionally, two new conservation labs allow visitors the opportunity to witness Riverbanks’ important conservation work with corals and leaf-tailed geckos.
Guests entering the new Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center are immediately immersed in temperate and tropical rainforests with floor-to-ceiling views of captivating residents. A few guest favorites in this area include an alligator snapping turtle, cottonmouth, bushmaster, blue poison dart frogs and green anaconda.
The journey continues as guests are transported to the new desert biome — highlighting arid habitats of the Western hemisphere, especially in the desert southwest. This immersive habitat features a variety of desert dwellers, including tortoises, rattlesnakes, and Gila monsters, as well as thick-billed parrots and burrowing owls.
Moving past the desert, guests will get up close views of animals of all shapes and sizes, from a king cobra to tiny Panamanian golden frogs, as well as a rare view into the Nursery with incubating reptile eggs and new hatchlings. A new mangrove habitat helps transition guests from land to sea, featuring sea urchins, chocolate chip sea stars, seahorses, and upside-down jellyfish.
As guests wind their way into the Aquarium, they will be immersed in an ocean habitat with the sights and sounds of the sea. Visitors will be mesmerized by a giant wall of moon jellies and look forward to the arrival of Susan the giant Pacific octopus, named after Mrs. Susan Boyd.
New and innovative conservation labs showcase Riverbanks' conservation work that was previously only experienced during behind-the-scenes tours.
Guests get 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.
In the terrestrial lab, guests can view endangered reptiles and amphibians. The lab showcases Riverbanks’ work supporting populations of geckos from around the globe and collaborative projects protecting South Carolina’s most endangered wildlife.
The original Aquarium and Reptile Complex opened in 1989 and was the highlight of Riverbanks’ first major expansion project. The combination of innovative design, exotic creatures and creative educational graphics makes the ARCC one of the Southeast’s educational and recreational showpieces.