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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The Smithsonian National Zoo announced the names of their two female American bison on Wednesday: Wilma and Zora.

Howard University and Gallaudet University students, whose schools have bison as their mascots, chose the names.

Zoo officials explained in a press release on Wednesday:

"Howard University students chose to name one bison Zora in honor of alumnus Zora Neal Hurston, acclaimed author, poet and civil rights activist. Students at Gallaudet University selected the name Wilma in honor of alumnus Wilma Newhoudt-Druchen, the first deaf woman elected to serve in the Republic of South Africa's parliament."

The National Zoo tweeted out photos of student representatives announcing the names.

The bison, who came to the Zoo from the American Prairie Reserve in northeastern Montana, are at the zoo in honor of its 125th anniversary celebration.

"National Zoo visitors can expect to see the bison trot, rest and graze in their lush new habitat located adjacent to the 'Zoo in Your Backyard' exhibit. Website visitors can learn about the ties between bison and the Zoo, how the animals were brought back from the brink of extinction and the deep connection American Indian nations have to this species," said zoo officials in a statement on Wednesday.

Bison actually began the zoo's living collection, and according to officials, "sparked the conservation movement."

"Our founder William Temple Hornaday envisioned a national zoo where bison and other vanishing species would thrive," said National Zoo director Dennis Kelly in a written statement. "By bringing bison back to the Zoo, we hope Americans will reconnect with this iconic species. Bison played a key role in the history of our country and the history of our great Zoo. Let these animal ambassadors remind us all that we can save wildlife and their habitats."

The American Bison Exhibit opens to the public August 30.

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