$80 million dollar Riverbanks Zoo and Garden project proposal in Columbia, SC


Rendering of the Saluda River view | Photo provided by Riverbanks Zoo

Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens is asking Richland + Lexington Counties to dedicate a combined $80 million toward Bridge to the Wild — a new proposed improvement project part of the zoo’s innovative master plan.

The master plan has been in the works for several years + one of the goals outlined includes transforming both sides of the Saluda River into SC’s leading conservation resource.

Rendering of the orangutan habitat

Rendering of the orangutan habitat | Photo provided by Riverbanks Zoo

The lower banks of the Saluda River would be developed into a multifaceted orangutan habitat that would also become home to other ape species in the zoo — like the siamangs + gibbons.

Other developments would also include the South Carolina Nature Preserve where guests can learn about + experience our region’s most at-risk specieslike black bears, bald eagles, and red wolves.

If approved, the majority of the $80 million dollar funding would likely come from Richland County and the rest would be covered by Lexington County — making the deal a ~56-44% split. As of now, the approval timeline sits around mid-July of this year + once approved, details for a full-scope timeline can begin.

If you’re excited about new developments at Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens, you’re not alone, and one project is coming within the next few months. Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium and Reptile Conservation Center a project we talked about last July — is expected to be complete this fall.

A rendering of the outside of the new Conservation Center

A rendering of the outside of the new Conservation Center | Photo provided by Riverbanks Zoo

Within the Conservation Center, guests are able to witness the propagation of coral species as part of a new Coral Conversation Lab, see a giant Pacific octopus, eight species of leaf-tailed geckos, and many more behind-the-scenes conservation efforts taking place at Riverbanks daily.

”Everything we are trying to, within all of our projects, is connect people with nature.” — Susan O’Cain, Director of Public Relations for Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens.

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