Riverbanks’ Zoo director announces retirement

Satch Krantz will step down in June after more than 40 years

Satch Krantz, president and CEO of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, has announced plans to retire on June 30, marking the end of an era in the zoo’s history.

“I have been blessed with a wonderfully rewarding career,” said Krantz in a release. “All along I’ve had a supportive governing authority, an incredibly talented staff, and a community that cares deeply for its zoo. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with many great professionals throughout my 44 years in this often wacky business.”

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Krantz, a Columbia native, began his tenure at Riverbanks in 1973 as supervisor of the Zoo’s animal hospital after graduating from Clemson University. He was promoted to executive director (now president and CEO) in 1976 at the age of 26.

Krantz is one of only two individuals to serve as the zoo’s executive director. He also is the longest-serving zoo director in the nation.

According to zoo officials, Krantz’s wisdom and direction have been instrumental in Riverbanks’ role as a powerful economic driver in the Midlands.

Under his leadership, Riverbanks has evolved from a small, financially troubled zoo in its early years to one of the top zoos in the world and South Carolina’s largest gated tourist attraction, drawing more than one-million visitors each year.

The zoo boasted its largest-ever attendance in 2016 with nearly 1.3 million guests following the completion of Destination Riverbanks—a $40 million dollar park-wide expansion and the largest in the zoo’s history.

“The journey has been incredible,” said Krantz. “In the beginning, the zoo’s future was at many times in doubt, but with increasing public support and opportunities for development, we began to gain momentum, and our progress has not slowed. I cannot think of a better time for Riverbanks to transition into new leadership.”

In addition to leading the pack at Riverbanks, Krantz is one of only three American zoo directors to have served as both president of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Zoo officials cited his guidance for Riverbanks’ being continuously recognized as a global leader in wildlife conservation and an influential participant in more than 70 of the AZA’s Species Survival Programs.

“Satch is the only zoo director to be elected twice as Chair of the AZA’s Board of Directors which is a testament to the tremendous respect his colleagues have for him,” said Kris Vehrs, interim president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“Satch has demonstrated great passion for improving the AZA’s animal sustainability programs and has been integral in moving those programs forward,” Vehrs added. “In 2013, he was awarded the prestigious R. Marlin Perkins award for professional excellence: the highest honor bestowed upon a zoo professional by the AZA.”

Krantz also has been heavily involved in the community Riverbanks serves. He is a past president of the board of Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital and the Columbia Rotary Club. He has also served as president of the Clemson University Board of Visitors and the University of South Carolina University Associates. In 2012, Krantz was awarded Clemson’s Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor that the Clemson Alumni Association can bestow upon an alumnus or alumna.

“There is no question that Satch’s unwavering commitment to Riverbanks and our community will have an impact for generations to come,” stated Mary Howard, chair of Riverbanks Park Commission.

“With Satch’s oversight, the Zoo has become a cherished place where families and school children can experience and connect with the natural world,” she added. “I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside Satch as a longstanding member of the Riverbanks Park Commission. He is a true visionary, a profound leader, and he will leave behind a legacy that is second to none.”