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To honor its 125th anniversary, the Smithsonian National Zoo welcomed two new female American bison in August 2014. Because Gallaudet and Howard universities share the bison as their mascots, the zoo invited students at both schools to name the new animals. Gallaudet students selected the name Wilma to honor esteemed alumna The Honorable Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, ’92 -’05 & ’09, the first deaf woman elected to serve in the Republic of South Africa’s parliament, current World Federation of the Deaf vice president, and newly appointed Gallaudet Board of Trustees member. Howard students selected the name Zora to honor Howard alumna Zora Neale Hurston, acclaimed author, poet, and civil rights activist.

Gallaudet Student Body Government President Andrew Morrill publicly unveiled Gallaudet students’ chosen name at a press conference held at the zoo in front of media and invited guests. Morrill then interviewed with local and national media outlets, including The Washington Post, National Geographic, National Public Radio affiliate WAMU, and D.C. FOX affiliate WTTG-TV.

“The Gallaudet Student Body Government and Graduate Student Association would like to thank the National Zoo for including us in the process for naming their newest additions to the zoo,” said Morrill. “It’s a real honor to be able to recognize the University in this way. I know students, faculty, staff, and the many alumni who live in the D.C. area will be proud to know that every time they visit the zoo, there will be a little bit of Gallaudet Bison pride there to greet them.”

Bison were the first animals to be exhibited at the zoo in 1889. William Temple Hornaday, the zoo’s founder, was a chief taxidermist for the Smithsonian. After learning about the rapid decline of the bison population across the American West, Hornaday proposed that Congress establish the zoo and help preserve the bison. Soon after, four American bison and several other North American species were brought to the National Mall and roamed around the Smithsonian Castle. The zoo officially became a part of the Smithsonian in 1890 and opened to the public in 1891.

Wilma and Zora weigh 500 and 550 pounds, respectively, and eventually will weigh twice that much. They were brought to the zoo from the American Prairie Reserve in Montana, one of the most intact prairies in North America. Visitors to the zoo can watch Wilma and Zora graze, trot, and relax in their new home located next to the “Zoo in Your Backyard” exhibit. To learn more about the bison exhibit, click here.

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