World’s Largest Lizards to Land New Habitat at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

For Immediate Release: May 8, 2023

Zoo is not “dragon” its feet on Phase One expansion

Columbia S.C. — Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is excited to announce the next step in Phase One of the Zoo’s Bridge to the Wild development project. A new, larger habitat for Riverbanks’ Komodo dragons is on the horizon and expected to open in the spring of 2024. Thanks to a generous bequest by the late Mr. Lloyd L. and Mrs. Doris N. Liles, the expanded facility will provide more engaging, up-close views of the endangered lizards and the hope for baby dragons in the future.

“Komodo dragons are one of the most charismatic reptile species. Creating a larger space with a multitude of new views for guests not only is exciting for Riverbanks and our community but also benefits the animals as a whole as we work toward the goal of having a long-term sustainable population,” says Sean Foley, Riverbanks’ Curator of Herpetology.

One of 238 institutions accredited by Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA), Riverbanks collaborates with other AZA-accredited facilities in Species Survival Plan® (SSP) programs to ensure genetic diversity among animal populations in human care. The new facility will enhance the Zoo’s ability to breed, house and care for Komodo dragons as recommended by the SSP.

Riverbanks’ current pair of Komodo dragons hatched in 2011. When the siblings arrived at Riverbanks in November of that year, they weighed only a half pound each. Today, the male weighs nearly 120 pounds. Plans to obtain another male are in the works. The new habitat will offer more indoor space for the additional dragon plus room for future hatchlings.

Phase One of Bridge to the Wild is a $32 million privately funded investment including a white rhino habitat, infrastructure improvements, and the new Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center. This phase is made possible through Riverbanks’ earned revenue and in partnership with the State of South Carolina, The Boyd Foundation, Riverbanks Society, and private donors including the Liles’ legacy gift. An additional project announcement is slated for mid-2023. Renderings of the new facility can be found below.

| Komodo Dragon Facility |


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Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 3,000 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