Riverbanks Zoo and Garden Approaches a Major Milestone Celebrating 50 Years of Wildlife, Conservation and Family Fun

For Immediate Release: February 2, 2024

Zoo’s Golden Anniversary Brings Golden Opportunities

Columbia SC — Riverbanks Zoo and Garden will mark a golden milestone in the Midlands on April 25, 2024. As the days count down to the Zoo’s historic 50th anniversary, exciting partnerships, projects, and festivities await. “Over the past 50 years, Riverbanks has grown and cultivated a treasured destination for our guests,” says Tommy Stringfellow, president and CEO of Riverbanks. “This is the place where entertainment, education and a commitment to conservation come together. We aim for our guests to cherish the memories of their experience and be inspired to actively contribute to efforts that will have a positive impact on wildlife and wild places now and into the future.”

New facilities are underway for Komodo dragons, young explorers and more

Through the steadfast support of private donors, corporate partners, and the community, Riverbanks is thrilled to celebrate 50 years with several new projects on the horizon. Construction is well underway for the new Komodo dragon breeding facility, and the anticipated opening is slated for late spring/summer 2024. The project is made possible by a generous bequest from the late Mr. Lloyd S. and Mrs. Doris N. Liles and will provide more engaging, up-close views of the endangered lizards and foster hope for future baby dragons.

A visionary legacy gift from another longtime donor and friend of Riverbanks will support the development of a second new facility. The Jane B. Friedman Conservation Learning Center will transform the educational experience for young explorers and provide added conveniences for parents and instructors. “Riverbanks has engaged millions of learners on our campus over the last 50 years—more than 10,000 school-age children alone each year,” says Rachael Bashor, vice president of mission engagement at Riverbanks. “As we look forward to the next 50 years serving our community and wildlife, the Jane B. Friedman Conservation Learning Center will allow us to expand our offerings of innovative educational experiences. We look forward to continuing to be a valuable partner to the ever-changing education landscape with a larger indoor and outdoor classroom setting that can meet growing demand and needs.” The new education center is currently in the design phase and expected to open in 2026.

The next phase of Bridge to the Wild, Riverbanks’ eagerly anticipated expansion across Saluda River, will connect communities and immerse guests in extraordinary, naturalistic animal habitats while highlighting the incredible diversity of flora and fauna in South Carolina. “Thanks to the unwavering support of Richland and Lexington County Councils and our community, we look forward to moving ahead with Phase Two of Bridge to the Wild,” says Stringfellow. “This next phase of Riverbanks’ vision for the future is set to move forward with a year-long design process. The project will boost Riverbanks’ economic impact to over $175 million annually, translating to tangible benefits for our community including job creation, tourism generation and increased educational and recreational opportunities.”

Sustainability efforts lead to pint-sized partnership

What better way to celebrate 50 years than with a pint-sized partnership that can go a long way toward conservation. Riverbanks is excited to partner with Peak Drift Brewery to FUN-raise for wildlife in a whole new way. Unwavering in their commitment to sustainability, Peak Drift provides 100% recyclable cans. Craft beer and hard seltzer inspired by Riverbanks residents are expected to roll out this spring and will be available at the Zoo and wherever Peak Drift spirits are sold. A portion of every purchase supports the care and conservation of the animals at Riverbanks and beyond.

Safe soaring potential increases with window vinyl

Another partnership soaring between Riverbanks, South Carolina Wildlife Federation, and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ North American Songbird SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction® program is helping to keep birds flying high. More than a billion birds die annually from collisions with glass—one of the largest killers of migratory birds. Through the AZA SAFE program, Riverbanks obtained a grant to purchase CollidEscape, an external window vinyl that makes glass a visible barrier to birds yet allows the view from inside to remain unobstructed. Guests can see the new bird-friendly installation at Riverbanks’ Tuskers restaurant.

Free Fridays for residents of Richland and Lexington Counties

As the countdown to 50 continues, don’t forget to take advantage of the wildest deal of 2024 so far—Free Fridays. There is still time for residents of Richland and Lexington Counties to receive free daytime admission to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden every Friday through the month of February with proof of residency (e.g., valid driver’s license, property tax statement or vehicle registration).

In the approaching weeks, be sure to stay connected for many more exciting opportunities and engaging festivities commemorating Riverbanks’ remarkable 50th anniversary at riverbanks.org.



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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 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 wildlife and wild places. For more information, visit riverbanks.org.