Darnall W and Susan F Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center Set to Open March 2, 2023

For Immediate Release: January 26, 2023

Much-anticipated animal care facility to provide guests with engaging experience that connects, educates and inspires conservation action

Columbia, S.C. – Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, a world-class recreational and educational attraction in Columbia, S.C., will open the much anticipated Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center on Thursday, March 2, 2023. Thanks to the generous support of The Boyd Foundation, the multi-million-dollar renovations will transform the heart of the Zoo into a state-of-the-art animal care facility — providing guests with an engaging experience that places Riverbanks’ critical role in wildlife conservation at the front and center.

“It is a deep honor to support Riverbanks Zoo and Garden and their mission of conservation and education,” says Susan F. Boyd of The Boyd Foundation. “The new Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center will transport visitors through a variety of habitats, show the impact of conservation efforts, and encourage simple actions to protect our ecosystems and wildlife. It’s important for us to understand our critical roles in conservation and how we can all do our part.” 

Once open, guests will be able to explore temperate and tropical forests, trek through the desert and wind their way from land to sea in an immersive journey with new discoveries around every turn. The highly anticipated aquarium project took four years from concept to completion and will feature:

•    Conservation Labs: New and innovative conservation labs will showcase conservation work that was previously only experienced during behind-the-scenes tours. 

  • Coral Lab: Guests will have 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. 
  • Terrestrial Lab: In the terrestrial lab, guests can view endangered reptiles and amphibians from around the globe. Additionally, the space will highlight Riverbanks’ work supporting populations of geckos from around the globe and collaborative projects protecting South Carolina’s most endangered wildlife. 

•    New Desert Biome

  • The conservation center will house a brand-new desert biome highlighting arid habitats of the Western hemisphere, especially in the desert southwest. 
  • This immersive habitat will feature a variety of desert dwellers, including tortoises, rattlesnakes, and Gila monsters as well as thick-billed parrots and burrowing owls. 

•   Other Highlights 

  • Guests will enjoy new floor-to-ceiling views of some of their favorite reptilian residents, including the alligator snapping turtle, cottonmouth, bushmaster and green anaconda.  
  • Visitors also will be mesmerized by a giant wall of moon jellies.
  • In the coming weeks, guests will have the opportunity to meet a captivating giant Pacific octopus named Susan, in honor of Mrs. Boyd and her favorite animal.

“The new Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center is a major step toward achieving our mission to create meaningful connections, inspire action, and ultimately, make a lasting impact on conservation, not only in South Carolina but across the globe,” says Tommy Stringfellow, president and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. “Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Boyd Foundation, we are making significant strides in phase one of our vision for the future, Bridge to the Wild, which will fundamentally change the way guests experience wildlife and connect with nature at Riverbanks.”

The opening of the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center is the second project in phase one of Riverbanks’ innovative vision to build a Bridge to the Wild. Phase one, a $32 million dollar investment, includes the white rhino habitat that opened in 2020, significant improvements to aging infrastructure, and additional animal habitats that will be announced later in the year. Once complete, Bridge to the Wild will transform both sides of the Saluda River into the state’s leading conservation resource in addition to elevating Riverbanks’ stature as the leader in family fun. 

The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center will be open during normal Riverbanks hours and is included with general admission and membership. Visit riverbanks.org to learn more and plan your visit. 

Media Contact:  Anna Kate Twitty, Flock and Rally, 864.430.4226, annakate@flockandrally.com

[Press kit available here.]

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About Riverbanks Zoo and Garden: 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 riverbanks.org.

About The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation: The Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation promotes and supports projects of specific interest to the Boyd Family, such as education, beautification, and the creation of outdoor recreational opportunities, as well as enhancements to benefit the quality of life for citizens of Columbia and the Midlands. The Boyd Foundation has made possible a variety of projects in the Midlands, including Boyd Plaza at Columbia Museum of Art, renovations of facilities at Riverbanks Zoo, Boyd Island on the Saluda Riverwalk, South Carolina Waterfowl Association facilities, and many projects and facilities at Historic Columbia.