After seven years and great anticipation, California sea lions and harbor seals are making an incredible return to Riverbanks Zoo and Garden with the grand opening of Sea Lion Landing on Thursday, June 9 at 9:00am.
The public debut of Sea Lion Landing marks the final phase of Destination Riverbanks—the Zoo's $36-million expansion and development project. The exhibit is a remarkable recreation of San Francisco's famous Pier 39 where many sea lions live today.
Sea Lion Landing offers guests spectacular views and varying vantage points for watching these fin-footed favorites in action. Enjoy nose-to-nose encounters through a giant 35-foot-long panoramic window or relax and observe from amphitheater seating, check out incredible indoor sights both underwater and overhead, or get a broader look at the animals' 250,000-gallon saltwater habitat from The Wharf view on the upper deck.
"We are thrilled to finally share the long-awaited opening of Sea Lion Landing our members and guests," said Satch Krantz, president and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. "We are extremely grateful to our visitors, generous donors and partners, and the leaders of Richland and Lexington counties for their unwavering support. There is no doubt that Destination Riverbanks will have a tremendous impact on our community for years to come."
The new habitat is home to four male sea lions and a male harbor seal; 14-year-old Baja, 4-year-old Ranger and 4-year-old Maverick from San Diego Zoo, 3-year-old P.J. from New York's Seneca Park Zoo and 10-year-old Gambit from Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Riverbanks previously housed South American sea lions from 1974 – 1981 and California sea lions from 1974 – 2009.
The Zoo's newest group of marine mammals came to Riverbanks as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plans (SSP) for these species. For 35 years, SSP programs have helped ensure the continued existence of populations of specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species through breeding and transfer plans among AZA-accredited institutions.
Riverbanks members are invited to get an exciting sneak peak of Sea Lion Landing and the Zoo's newest residents all next week; members-only drop-ins will take place Monday, May 16 – Friday, May 20 between 3:00pm and 8:00pm. All members must present a valid member ID at the designated exhibit gates for entry (guest passes will not be accepted).
In addition, guests visiting Riverbanks will soon have safer access to the Zoo by way of a pedestrian bridge. The bridge, slated for completion this August, will cross over the railroad tracks between Riverbanks' new parking area on Rivermont Drive and the main Zoo entrance.
- ### -
For more than 40 years, Riverbanks Zoo and Garden has connected individuals, families and groups with the world's wildlife and wild places. Riverbanks is a special purpose district governed by the Riverbanks Park Commission, which consists of seven members, two appointed by Richland County Council, two by Lexington County Council, two by the City of Columbia, and one jointly by the three entities. It is the mission of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden to foster appreciation and concern for all living things. Riverbanks Zoo is located at 500 Wildlife Parkway, Columbia, SC 29210. The Botanical Garden entrance is located at 1300 Botanical Parkway, West Columbia, SC 29169. The park is open daily from 9am to 5pm, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas day. Admission is $13.95 for adults, $11.50 for children ages 2 – 12 and free for children younger than 2. Group rates and other discounts may apply. Year-round membership packages are also available. For more information, call Riverbanks at 803.779.8717, visit www.riverbanks.org or www.facebook.com/riverbankszoo.
- Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
- 500 Wildlife Parkway
- Columbia, SC 29210