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Riverbanks Zoo: Gorillas, Elephants, and Koalas in Columbia SC

Updated on March 18, 2011

Riverbanks Zoo, in Columbia SC...

Columbia SC has one of the best zoos in the United States, situated right on the banks of the Saluda River. It’s called Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens and has over 2,000 animals, birds, and reptiles. There are many great habitats and they specialize in providing natural environments for the animals for both the enjoyment of the animals and so the guests can see them like we might in the wild.

One of the more recent exhibits is the Lowland Gorillas from Africa, and the Riverbanks Zoo built an expensive gorilla habitat to house them in a natural enclosure. This gorilla area was completed in 2004, and is one of the highlights of the zoo now. Lowland Gorillas are an endangered species in the world, along with the more threatened Highland Gorilla.

Animals at the Riverbanks Zoo...

There are many great animal complexes at Riverbanks Zoo, including the African Plains, the Ndoki Forest, Lemur Island, Birdhouse at Riverbanks, Large Mammals, Australian Animals, and the Riverbanks Farm… They are all incredible, and some are more hands on than others. The Birdhouse is one of my favorites, and it has 3 distinctive geographically themed habitats such as the Penguin Coast, the Asian Trek, and Savanna Camp… The Gentoo, Rockhopper, and King Penguins are featured at this zoo, which are always amazing to see up close. The Birdhouse is amazing, and it also has an indoor rainforest with rains that are timed every few minutes or so to help the birds feel more at home. This habitat received the 2002 Significant Achievement Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for its uniqueness.

Some of the many other animals at the Riverbanks Zoo are elephants, polar bears, lemurs, giraffes, zebras, and ostriches. In fact, they have a 2 acre reproduction of an African savanna where the last 3 animal types hang out together in symbiosis. I love the polar bear exhibit also, and they spend a good bit of time in their refrigerated pool swimming! They aren’t incredibly big and fat as they would be in the wild, as they don’t need to keep so much fat on their bodies in the warmer weather. They are fun to watch though, and I’m sure you will agree!

Botanical Gardens at the Riverbanks Zoo...

The Riverbanks Zoo is also botanical gardens, and there are many plants from all over the world that fit right in with the various animal exhibits.  If you are really interested in learning more about plants, flowers, and trees around the world, then will love this area of the park!  There are many themed sections, including the Bog Garden, Old Rose Garden, Walled Garden, Shade Garden, and Dry Garden.  There are many fascinating types of plants, and one of my favorites is the Pitcher Plants.  These plants actually trap insects so they can’t escape, and they slowly slide into the plants grasp where it “eats” the insect.  It has digestive juices and the insect will dissolve over time, thus feeding the plant. 

They hold many special events at the Riverbanks Zoo, such as wine tasting, “Boo at the Zoo” for Halloween, and “Brew” at the Zoo for beer tasting.  They try to satisfy the zoo members and make it a great experience for people to invest in the zoo by offering events specially designed for them.  There is also a huge education system to help teach students all about the animals and plants at the zoo, and they will do pretty much anything asked to accommodate groups, and even has overnight programs where students can sleep over to experience things they wouldn’t normally see during the day.  Zoo membership is a great way to show your support for them, and to help pay for the animals upkeep, which can be quite expensive!    This is one of my all time favorite zoos, and I hope that you enjoy it too!

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