Old favorites return to Riverbanks Zoo as part of massive expans - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Old favorites return to Riverbanks Zoo as part of massive expansion

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Riverbanks Zoo and Garden celebrated their 40th anniversary Friday and celebrated their massive multi-million dollar expansion. The plan has been in the works for the last 7 years, and construction is slated to begin at the end of May.

Zoo workers will be working on several projects that will change the layout of South Carolina's largest gated attraction.Several animals will be getting new homes at the park and a few will also be returning after years of being gone.

River otters will be back with a brand new exhibit. Seals and sea lions will also be coming. Satch Krantz, Riverbanks president and CEO, says the new exhibit will have a similar feel to San Francisco's Pier 39. It will be built near the center of the zoo. Krantz says that the lemurs could possibly have a new home within the 3-acre interactive Children's Garden, which is also a big part of the expansion.

The grizzly bears and baboon exhibits are also undergoing some major changes. The baboons will move into the hyenas' old exhibit and the grizzlies will get an entire new set in the baboon's current spot.

Krantz also says more gift shops, retail facilities, and new restaurants will be added. There will also be several renovations to provide easier access for visitors, including more parking and a new entrance.

"We're about to demolish that old ugly front door and give the zoo an entrance that's fitting of not just the zoo and the garden, but also providing our guests with the amenities that they need," said Krantz.

A Riverbanks spokesperson says the zoo will remain open throughout expansion construction, allowing people to see current favorites while anticipating things to come.  

The expansion is set to be complete by Spring 2016.

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