RICHMOND, Va. — Animal civil rights advocates are applauding the announcement from Maymont’s Nature Center that they will begin desegregating their black bear and polar bear exhibits by May of this year. The announcement comes 65 years after the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision by the United States Supreme Court, which declared public school segregation unconstitutional.
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The polar bears were recently transported from the North Carolina Zoo. After much deliberation, steps have been made to integrate the bears, a move that would not have happened in North Carolina in as timely a fashion.
Anne Golladay, a spokesperson for Maymont, says the park is excited about the progressive effort to bring the nature center further into the 21st century.
“Beginning in late spring, the bears’ separate but equal exhibits will be combined into one big exhibit with no physical or societal barriers between them,” Golladay explained. “The Ursus americanus and Ursus maritimus, as they’re called by nerds, will have the same opportunities, receive the same training and support from handlers, and enjoy the same salmon purchased from local Food Lions when it goes on sale.”
Despite decades of incremental changes to the Nature Center’s guidelines on segregation for their other animals, the black bears and polar bears never before shared an enclosure. When asked why this had not been done upon the arrival of the polar bears, Golladay merely cited tradition. “The bears seemed happier with their own kind, even though they didn’t venture out into the public eye much.”
While the news of the bear enclosure integration has received praise by progressive activists, a vocal minority has voiced their opposition to the move. The detractors, led by former Republican senatorial candidate Corey Stewart, responded to the decision by issuing a warning to Maymont.
“With Robert Edward Lee as my witness, I will hold the line and stand guard at the entrance of the enclosure to ensure no black bears ever step foot inside while a polar bear is present,” Steward declared. “That is, assuming my gout doesn’t flare up.”
Responding to Stewart’s racially-tinged objections, Gov. Northam issued his own statement, telling the public, “We will see this through. The full force of the Virginia National Guard will be on stand-by and can assist as needed.”