- Riverbanks Zoo and Garden Ready to Inspire Visitors to Make Waves for Conservation
- Kick Off Summer with a Visit to Riverbanks on World Ocean Day
There are many reasons to celebrate World Ocean Day at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden on Thursday, June 8. From participating in ocean-themed activities and catching a sea lion talk to getting up close to coral conservation, World Ocean Day at Riverbanks makes it easy to get inspired to protect our ocean.
“Protecting the world’s ocean starts at home,” says Rachael Bashor, Riverbanks’ Vice President of Mission Engagement and Director of Education. “With the city of Columbia located along three rivers, all flowing into our treasured South Carolina coast, Midlands’ residents can make a big impact by taking simple actions to help keep our waterways clean, beautiful and full of life.”
One action people can take this summer to protect our ocean habitats is to use reef-safe sunscreen. Bashor explains, “Reef-safe sunscreens do not contain two common UV-blocking chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, that studies have shown can cause coral bleaching. When coral bleaches (turns white), it is still alive, but it’s under severe stress, which leaves it susceptible to disease.”
The coral reefs off the Florida Keys are experiencing high mortality rates due to stony coral tissue loss disease. Since 2019, Riverbanks has been one of 20 facilities partnering with federal and local governments and other zoological institutions to rescue corals from these reefs and provide safekeeping. The corals in Riverbanks’ care will help preserve genetic diversity and aid in future restoration efforts on the Florida Reef Tract. Visitors to Riverbanks can see coral conservation work in action in the newly renovated Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Aquarium & Reptile Conservation Center (ARCC).
In addition, there are only a few months left to visit green sea turtle Destiny in the ARCC’s giant Indo-Pacific reef tank. She is no longer the tiny hatchling that the Riverbanks team started caring for back in November 2019 as part of an ongoing head start partnership with South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Destiny will be released back into the ocean in October when she turns two years old, so make plans to see her while you can.
Throughout the day on Thursday, June 8, Riverbanks will highlight ocean-themed activities including:
- A photo booth where guests can post their pledge to protect the ocean;
- Educational stations where visitors can learn easy and fun ways to help;
- Quick surveys that will earn takers a few giveaways.
Top off your visit to Riverbanks with splash play at Waterfall Junction, now open through Labor Day weekend. Cool off around a 25-foot cascading waterfall and splash zones, unearth a life-size replica of T-Rex, play in giant tree houses, pop in and out of rabbit holes, and more. Be sure to wear reef-safe sunscreen, available for purchase on Riverbanks’ grounds.
While visiting the Zoo, guests also can help protect the ocean by “sipping sustainably.” Riverbanks aims to partner with visitors to ensure a positive impact on conservation of marine and other wildlife. Plastic straws take up to two hundred years to decompose and ninety percent of them end up in landfills or aquatic environments. Of course, one option is to skip the straw, but many members of the community require straws. In an effort to be inclusive and accommodate requests for straws, Riverbanks is now offering StrawFish® at all concession locations, a single-use, biodegradable straw made of recycled oyster shells that will completely break down in six months or less.
Riverbanks was recently ranked the sixth largest zoo in the nation by A to Z animals, an online resource that based their ranking on zoos housing the most animals. The number of Riverbanks residents grew to 3,000 with the opening of the ARCC in March 2023. As a result, Riverbanks has the opportunity to connect with and inspire even more visitors to take actions that will positively impact ocean conservation. Small steps can make a big difference.
Riverbanks Zoo and Garden
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 riverbanks.org.