Howard, Gallaudet students choose names for National Zoo's two new bison

WIlma the bison. (Photo: National Zoo)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Thanks to students from Howard and Gallaudet universities, the National Zoo's two newest residents have names.

In honor of the 125th anniversary, two new bison -both female - have joined the Zoo family, and students from the two local universities were given the honor of naming them.

The students at Howard chose to name one of the bison “Zora” in honor of alumnus Zora Neal Hurston, acclaimed author, poet and civil rights activist.

Students at Gallaudet University selected the name “Wilma” for the other bison, in honor of alumnus Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the first deaf woman elected to serve in the Republic of South Africa’s parliament.

Bison have a special place in the Zoo's history.

In 1887, William Temple Hornaday, then a taxidermist with the Smithsonian, brought two bison to live on the National Mall and began lobbying for a national zoo where bison and other vanishing species could survive and breed, according to Zoo officials.

On March 2, 1889, the National Zoo was created, and eventually the bison were moved to a new home at the Rock Creek property that now houses the National Zoo.

"Now, 125 years later, visitors can once again see the animals that inspired the creation of the National Zoo and helped spark the conservation movement in the United States," officials say on the Zoo's website.

Visitors to the National Zoo can see Zora and Wilma in the American Bison exhibit, where officials say they will "graze, rest and chew their cud in a lush habitat," with two viewing areas for visitors.

"The bison exhibit is designed to meet their physical, social, and mental needs while incorporating as many green and sustainable elements as possible," officials say on the Zoo's website.

The Zoo website indicates Zora and Wilma came from the American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana. The reserve reportedly spans more than 300,000 acres of public and private land and is home to hundreds of species including elk, pronghorn, sage grouse, prairie dogs, and a growing bison herd. It is reportedly one of the most intact prairies left in North America.