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Fin-tastic Finds Await with Plans to Scale Up the Zoo’s Aquarium-Reptile Complex

For Immediate Release: July 14, 2021

Darnall W. & Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center Coming in 2022

[Columbia, SC] — All-new experiences will await guests visiting Riverbanks Zoo and Garden with the transformation of the Zoo’s Aquarium-Reptile Complex. The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center is expected to open in the spring/summer of 2022.

The re-envisioned Aquarium-Reptile Complex is made possible thanks to the incredible generosity of The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation. The development project will create a myriad of stunning habitats offering captivating views of some of the world’s most precious and endangered wildlife and bring to the forefront animal care and conservation efforts taking place behind-the-scenes at Riverbanks every day.

“As the Foundation came to understand the important role Riverbanks plays in our community and beyond, we began exploring opportunities to help further the Zoo’s mission,” said George Bailey, president of The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation. “Most importantly, the renovation will bring to light the various conservation efforts that are supported in the Aquarium-Reptile Complex.”

A highlight of the backstage views will focus on Riverbanks’ 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.”

In preparation for the upcoming construction, Riverbanks also has been moving some animals to other zoos such as Riverbanks’ pair of false gharial crocodiles. The long-time residents had lived at the Zoo for more than 30 years.

“We recently moved the two crocodiles to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California,” said Sean Foley, curator of herpetology at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. “The tropical habitat where those crocodiles lived will now become a desert biome where guests will encounter an array of plant and animal species such as cacti, chuckwallas, spiny-tailed monitors, and Gila monsters.”

The Aquarium-Reptile Complex is scheduled to close to the public in August for the start of construction.