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Royal Oak — After nearly 80 years, gnu animals have returned to the Detroit Zoo, officials said Thursday. 

The Detroit Zoological Society has welcomed two male eastern white-bearded wildebeests, Lenny and Jeffrey, who arrived from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where they were born in July. 

The wildebeest, also called a gnu (pronounced “new”), is a type of African antelope and a subspecies of the blue wildebeest. The species was last seen at the zoo in 1939. 

“Having wildebeests at the Detroit Zoo for the first time in almost 80 years is exciting, because modern-day zoo visitors have never seen them here,” Scott Carter, chief life sciences officer, said in a news release. “Unlike many of the animals our visitors see, they’re not a threatened species but are an iconic and ecologically important part of their African Savannah ecosystems.” 

The two eastern white-bearded wildebeests (Connochates taurinus albojubatus) can be seen with the zebras in their African Grasslands habitat starting Friday. 

The wildebeests are known for their white beard, silvery-blue coat, long tail and cow-like horns. Males can weigh up to 640 pounds and females up to 575 pounds. They are also listed as "Least Concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the zoo noted.  

They will make their debut Friday during "Sunset at the Zoo Safari" fundraiser. The event features a strolling supper, music, dancing, auctions and access to many of the zoo’s animal habitats at twilight. To purchase tickets, visit detroitzoo.org/sunset.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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