Animals at Riverbanks Receive Specialized Care in Every Phase of Life

For Immediate Release: January 17, 2023

Long-term Care and Planning for Aging Animals Central to Riverbanks Mission

[Columbia SC] - While Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is abuzz with zoo babies and new animal residents, the Zoo’s animal care and veterinary teams remain focused on providing outstanding care to more than 2,000 animals every day, in every phase of life. Riverbanks is fast approaching 50 years, and many of the Zoo's residents also are advancing into their golden years and require senior care, including Butch the grizzly bear who just celebrated his 21st birthday.

The team at Riverbanks is passionate and committed to ensuring all the animals live their best lives. Dr. Martha Weber, Riverbanks’ director of animal health, explains, “Each animal at Riverbanks receives an individualized care plan based on routine exams and any specific issues that arise. In partnership with the animal care team, we take a holistic approach to health care.”

Just as most humans need specialized health care as they age, so do animals. The animal care teams at Riverbanks provide routine screenings and check-ups more frequently as animals age. They also design specialized long-term care plans to meet individual animals’ needs. John Davis, director of animal care and welfare, affirms, “Whether an animal requires a specific medical treatment, needs routine assessments, or would benefit from additional creature comforts or extra enrichment activities to engage mind and body, the entire team is dedicated to developing the best possible healthcare and lifestyle plans for each individual.”

Many Riverbanks residents receive specialized care as they advance in years. The animal care teams manage arthritis symptoms in animals as large as Koshka, a 17-year-old female Amur tiger, and as small as a Bali myna, an endangered Asian songbird. Individuals like Cenzoo, a 26-year-old male western lowland gorilla, have been trained to voluntarily participate in heart monitoring due to the risks of heart disease. Conditions from vision loss to diabetes, oral health to cancer, are regularly monitored and treated by the Zoo’s team of animal care experts.

Advancements in veterinary medicine, nutrition, and husbandry techniques are helping animals live longer in zoos and aquariums around the U.S. As a result, animal care professionals are developing creative and innovative plans to address the unique needs of geriatric animals. The team at Riverbanks is leading the way in providing this specialized and compassionate care to ensure the longevity and well-being of all the animals in their protection.


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Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 2,000 magnificent and fascinating animals and one of America’s best public gardens. The Zoo opened on April 25, 1974, and for nearly five decades, has connected individuals, families and school children with the natural world. Riverbanks is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is recognized as a global leader in animal care and welfare, education, recreation, science and wildlife conservation. It is the mission of the Zoo and Garden to create meaningful connections and inspire actions that will have a lasting impact on conservation. For more information, visit