Talking with giraffes at the Riga Zoo, Latvia
After two decades of absence – previously giraffes lived at the Riga Zoo in 1972-79 – these gracious animals are back in town! Four adult males of Rothschild subspecies – eight-year old Pik and Periscope, four-year old Usmi and three-year old Kimi – now all live in a newly built, comfortable and spacious Giraffe House.
Meeting giraffes “in person” was quite an emotional experience. With legs of a man’s height, giraffes walk quickly, and as one of them approaches us at a moment’s notice and carefully bends down his head to examine us closer, it feels both odd and moving.
Curious yet shy, giraffes won’t let us touch them, so mild voice and friendly look leave us the only way to communicate. They may seem silent, but in fact giraffes mostly “speak” at an infrasound level, inaudible for human’s ear.
Website of Riga Zoo - http://www.rigazoo.lv
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Europe is generally agreed to be the birthplace of western culture, including such legendary innovations as the democratic nation-state, football and tomato sauce.
The word Europe comes from the Greek goddess Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus and plunked down on the island of Crete. Europa gradually changed from referring to mainland Greece until it extended finally to include Norway and Russia.
Don't be confused that Europe is called a continent without looking like an island, the way the other continents do. It's okay. The Ural mountains have steadily been there to divide Europe from Asia for the last 250 million years. Russia technically inhabits "Eurasia".
Europe is presently uniting into one political and economic zone with a common currency called the Euro. The European Union originated in 1993 and is now composed of 27 member states. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.
Do not confuse the EU with the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states and dates to 1949. These two bodies share the same flag, national anthem, and mission of integrating Europe. The headquarters of the Council are located in Strasbourg, France, and it is most famous for its European Court of Human Rights.
In spite of these two bodies, there is still no single Constitution or set of laws applying to all the countries of Europe. Debate rages over the role of the EU in regards to national sovereignty. As of January 2009, the Lisbon Treaty is the closest thing to a European Constitution, yet it has not been approved by all the EU states.
Text by Steve Smith.