First look inside Riverbanks Zoo’s new aquarium, reptile center
QC Morning took viewers through the new temperate forest and desert biome.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) - It’s a big week at Riverbanks Zoo as the zoo is officially opening its doors to the new Aquarium and Reptile Conservation Center this Thursday.
QC Life’s Mary King had the chance to go inside the new space as it opened first to members of the zoo.
The highly anticipated Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center has been four years in the making from conception to completion. The zoo says more than 12,000 animals are housed in the new space representing more than 300 different species including reptiles and amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Seventeen of the species guests will get to see are labeled as endangered.
“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,” Tommy Stringfellow, president and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, previously said about the space.
The 20,000-square-foot center will allow visitors to get a firsthand look at desert biomes and aquatic life while also showing the impact of conservation efforts. It’s the second project in phase one of Riverbanks’ innovative vision to build a “Bridge to the Wild.”
The $10 million ARCC is part of the larger $32 million phase one investment that included the white rhino habitat that opened in 2020.
“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,” added Stringfellow.
QC Morning took viewers through the new temperate forest and desert biome, which highlights animals found in the arid habitats of the western hemisphere.
In addition, they got a look at the new aquarium which is not far from the zoo’s coral reef lab.
Since 2019, Riverbanks has been on the frontlines of coral reef conservation. Zoo officials say that’s because the Florida Reef Tract has been experiencing a disease outbreak in stony corals for several years. The zoo is part of an effort to rescue corals off the Florida coast near Key West and bring them back to the zoo where they can ensure they are protected and preserved.
The ultimate goal is to be able to return them to places along a 360-mile stretch where coral have been affected by disease.
The new ARCC space also has a terrestrial lab. Zoo officials say this new space highlights Riverbanks’ work supporting populations of endangered reptiles and geckos from around the globe. For more than two decades, Riverbanks has hatched more than 2,000 leaf-tailed geckos to help preserve the species which is unique to the island of Madagascar.
Those interested in taking an in-person visit can learn more at Riverbanks’ website.
Zoo officials say another phase one investment will include significant infrastructure improvements and two new projects to be announced later this year.
Phase one has been funded through a combination of Riverbanks’ operating revenue, private contributions, corporate partners and the state of South Carolina.
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