Archive: Great Gnus! Wildebeests Return to the Detroit Zoo

African antelopes debut in time for safari-themed Sunset at the Zoo on June 8

June 7, 2018

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) has welcomed some gnu animals to the Detroit Zoo – two male eastern white-bearded wildebeests can now be seen with the zebras in their African Grasslands habitat.  Lenny and Jeffrey arrived from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where they were born last 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,” said Scott Carter, DZS chief life sciences officer.  “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.” 

Eastern white-bearded wildebeests (Connochates taurinus albojubatus) 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.  The wildebeest is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  

In addition to wildebeests and zebras, the African Grasslands region at the Detroit Zoo is home to giraffes, lions, rhinoceroses, aardvarks and warthogs, among others.  It provides an environment for learning about the diverse, adaptable species of the vast African Savannah. 

The wildebeests make their debut just in time for this year’s Sunset at the Zoo “Safari” fundraiser on Friday, June 8.  The event features a strolling supper, music, dancing, auctions and access to many of the Detroit Zoo’s award-winning animal habitats at twilight.  For information or to purchase tickets, visit