Yesterday, the United States Navy received a new class of officers graduating from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. It’s the first time in my adult life that midshipmen weren’t graduating into a war in Afghanistan or Iraq. As a child, I went to the Naval Academy on several occasions with the Boy Scouts prior to September 11, when conflict seemed a distant possibility. I remember being astonished by the size of the mess hall. I remember them playing us scenes from ‘Top Gun’ to get us thinking the Navy was all about Tomcats and not at all about aircraft carrier maintenance. I remember the aging but storied facilities and a culture rooted in tradition and discipline. I remember earning my ‘Atomic Energy’ merit badge there, complete with a trip to an active reactor used to train nuclear submariners. Years later, I revisited Annapolis as an undergraduate from the nearby University of Maryland. When the midshipmen graduate, the Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, take the skies over Annapolis. Folks from all across Maryland come to line the banks of the Severn River as the F/A-18 Super Hornets scream up and down the waterway with wings just meters apart. Although the cynic in me contemplated the cost of operating these machines of war and calculated the carbon footprint of this celebratory display, the Boy Scout aged child in me marveled at these spectacularly engineered aircraft and the skilled aviators piloting them
This is Mr. Kidepo, one of the oldest bulls in Uganda’s Kidepo Valley National Park. In many ways, his life story reflects the history of giraffe in the park. Kidepo National Park once supported one of the largest giraffe populations in the country, but by the early 1990s, years of civil unrest and illegal hunting had reduced the population to only three individuals. Through careful management and strategic conservation translocations, the number of giraffe has continued to increase and now exceeds 70 individuals. We identified Mr. Kidepo during our first photographic survey in 2015. At that time he was noted to have a spectacular wound on his right hind leg, possibly caused by a poacher's bullet. This wound is so large that oxpeckers would often perch inside the grapefruit-sized depression. Although veterinary intervention was initially proposed, the potential risks associated with immobilization outweighed the potential benefits of treatments. Over the years, this decision was validated, as Mr. Kidepo continues to be one of the dominant bulls of the Narus Valley. Like the giraffe population in Kidepo Valley National park, Mr Kidepo has shown amazing resilience during difficult times and with increased conservation efforts now faces a much brighter future.
Reflecting on maternal love and maternal grace.
There is a reason that divine mother is so ubiquitous in mythology and culture. From Mary, the mother of Christ, to Gaia, the Greek goddess of Earth and mother of all life, the mother is synonymous with creation and love. I am grateful and awed to see this same grace manifested in all the mothers in my life.
From the tip of southern Africa to the Amur Forest of the Russian Far East; from the most remote wildernesses of Tanzania to some of the densest urban settlements in Mumbai, India, leopards are almost always there, but seldom seen. Similar to their new world counterparts, the puma, leopards are among the most widely distributed predators. They do what they do so beautifully. There is a silky grace to their movements and smooth efficiency in their predatory violence