Site update

Since I have been really terrible at updating the blog (but pretty good at keeping up with the facebook blog posts) I've added the widget below so that facebook cross posts to the blog.

You shouldn't need to join facebook but can just click on the links in the widget to access the articles. If you have any problems or comments please mail me at arandjel 'AT'

Friday, May 29, 2009

Six things science has revealed about the female orgasm

From the New Scientist
17:35 28 May 2009 by Michael Marshall

This week we report on the continuing debate about female ejaculation: is it real, and if so why does it happen?
See Everything you always wanted to know about female ejaculation (but were afraid to ask)
Ejaculation is just one of the aspects of female sexuality that are being demystified by research. In particular, the female orgasm, the subject of so many myths and folk beliefs, is gradually being understood.
Following some intense field research, here are some of the key facts about the female orgasm, as revealed by modern science.

1) The G spot is real
The G spot is a small region in the vagina that, if stimulated, can produce wildly intense orgasms – or so the popular claim goes. However, for decades, strong evidence for the region's existence was harder to find than the spot itself.
However, in 2008, an Italian research team found anatomical differences between women who could have G-spot orgasms and women who couldn't; apparently solving the mystery. The researchers have since begun teaching women with G spots how to put them to use.
See Ultrasound nails location of the elusive G spot

2) The brain switches off
It's folk wisdom that people can't think straight when they have sex on their minds, but when women have an orgasm most of their brains switch off.
A brain scanning study showed that many areas of women's brains were deactivated during orgasm, including those involved in emotion. The effect was less striking in men, but that may be because male orgasms are so short they are hard to detect in a brain scan.
See Orgasms: A real turn-off for women

3)Many women can't have orgasms

According to a 1999 survey, around 43 per cent of women in the US have some sort of problem with their sex lives (Journal of the American Medical Association, vol 281, page 537).
Female sexual dysfunction (FSD) is so common that the very idea that it is a medical disorder has come under attack. If nearly half the female population has a problem, say critics, does that mean it is our society that is dysfunctional?
Even so, efforts to develop drugs to treat it are underway. The impotence drug Viagra has had mixed results in women, but there are many other avenues being explored.
See What women want

4) Genes affect orgasm frequency
According to the first genetic study of the female orgasm, up to 45 per cent of the variation in women's ability to have them could be down to genes.
Many women never have orgasms during intercourse, and some also cannot have them through masturbation. Some of this may be down to external factors like upbringing, but the study showed the genetic factor is significant.
See Genes blamed for fickle female orgasm

5)Technology can help
Perhaps the most extreme solution is the so-called "orgasmatron"; an implant inserted into the spinal cord, which stimulates the user when switched on via a remote control.
Despite an initial struggle to find subjects for clinical testing, the device is now in development.
See Push my button

6) Some mystery remains
The female orgasm is a puzzle for evolutionary biologists. It is unclear why women should have orgasms at all, and it is particularly baffling that so many women should be unable to have orgasms during penetrative sex, but able to have them by masturbation.
According to researcher Elisabeth Lloyd, that implies that female orgasms are an evolutionary accident. Like male nipples, they persist simply because there is no good reason to get rid of them.
See The case of the female orgasm

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Op-Ed: Gorillas and Now Leatherbacks

Editorial from the New York Times
Gorillas and Now Leatherbacks
Published: May 21, 2009

Last year, scientists were surprised to discover a large population of western lowland gorillas, a species close to extinction, in northern Congo Republic. Now there is news of another extraordinary find. In a multi-year survey of nesting sites along the coast of Gabon, scientists have found a startling number of leatherback turtles, possibly as many as 40,000, enough perhaps to remove leatherbacks from the list of globally endangered species. This is very good news, especially coupled with the fact that most of the nesting sites were discovered within protected areas.

In both cases, these new populations were located by conducting surveys in regions that had not been thoroughly combed before. Beyond relief, they remind us of what scientists felt in much earlier times, when explorers routinely chronicled the biological largess this world had to offer. Wonder was the predominant note in their chronicles, but there was also a keen eye for economic potential. Behind it all was the feeling of plenitude, that the biological riches of this planet were essentially inexhaustible, no matter what human beings did. That was clearly and tragically wrong.

Which brings us back to sea turtles and gorillas. We've grown accustomed to very different kinds of surveys, like the recent one showing that chimpanzee populations had dropped by 90 percent in Ivory Coast, which was supposed to be a stronghold for the species. In a very real sense, we are still exploring the planet, gradually obtaining a more realistic census of what life looks like in the early 21st century. Now and then there will be good surprises, like the fact that as many as 40,000 leatherbacks are nesting in Gabon. But the question those good surprises ultimately raise is a simple one: for how long?

An original article on the discovery of 40,000 leatherback turtles can be found at the guardian online

Monday, May 18, 2009

Trans-boundary Rainforest Park will be a symbol of peace and stability

From Bird life international

"The project will serve as a symbol of our renewed commitment to peace, stability and biodiversity conservation in this region" —H.E. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia

The Presidents of Sierra Leone and Liberia today met in the Gola Forest, Sierra Leone, to announce the establishment of a new Trans-boundary Peace Park, to protect one of the largest remaining blocks of intact forest in the Upper Guinea Area of West Africa.

The Peace Park unites the Gola Forest Reserve in Sierra Leone (75,000 ha) and the Lofa and Foya Forest Reserves in Liberia (80,000 ha and 100,000 ha respectively), with additional forest to provide corridors for the movement of wildlife between them.

At today’s meeting H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone said: "The long-term benefits of the conservation of the Gola Forests far outweigh the short-term benefits of extraction and destruction. As I have said since I was elected in 2007, the Gola Forests will become a National Park in Sierra Leone and mining will not be permitted".

H.E. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia said: “This launch of the Sierra Leone - Liberia Trans-boundary Peace Park Project will serve as a symbol of our renewed commitment to peace, stability and biodiversity conservation in this region"

The local communities in Sierra Leone, through their traditional chiefs and Members of Parliament, have both expressed their support for the conservation of the Gola Forest and its designation as a national park.

Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson, BirdLife’s Regional Director for Africa, who has worked for more than 20 years on the protection of Gola Forest said: “The establishment of the Trans-boundary Peace Park is a tribute to the success of the governments of both countries in putting their recent history of civil war behind them. I wish to congratulate both Presidents for this far-sighted initiative. In the run up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year, they have shown their wholehearted commitment to taking the measures needed to reduce the threats of climate change and increase collaboration in the conservation of their Nation’s natural resources.”

The work to establish the Peace Park has involved several conservation organisations in the BirdLife International Partnership, the two national BirdLife Partners (Conservation Society of Sierra Leone and Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia), the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), Vogelbescherming (BirdLife in The Netherlands), working together with the Forest Development Authority (FDA) of Liberia, and the Forestry Division in Sierra Leone.

The BirdLife Partnership, which is already working on a 4.2 million Euro project to protect Sierra Leone’s Gola Forest, funded by the European Union (EU) and FFEM (French Government), has secured an additional 3.2 million Euros to fund the four-year project to establish the 200,000 ha protected area from the EU, with the balance made up from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), and the Sustainable & Thriving Environments for West African Regional Development (STEWARD) Program of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the US Forest Service, International Programs. CEPF is a joint initiative of Conservation International, the French Development Agency, the government of Japan, the Global Environment Facility, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.

The Upper Guinea Forest Ecosystem, which extends from Guinea to Togo, is one of the world’s most biodiversity-rich ecosystems. However, centuries of human activities has led to the loss of more than 70% of the overall forest cover, which was initially estimated at 420,000 square kilometres. The remaining forest is highly fragmented, restricting habitats to isolated patches and threatening the unique flora and fauna.

Of the 240-250 forest dependent birds in the region, more than 25 are threatened or restricted-range species. Four species, including White-breasted Guineafowl Agelastes meleagrides and White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus (both Red Listed as Vulnerable) are restricted to the remnants of the western subsection of the Upper Guinea Forest, which the Trans-boundary Peace Park will help to protect.

The forest is also home to more than 50 mammal species, such as Forest Elephant Loxodonta cyclotis, Pygmy Hippo Choeropsis liberiensis and ten species of primate, including the threatened Chimpanzee Pan troglodytes.

The forests provide very important ecological services locally, nationally and regionally, including wood and non-timber forest products, medicinal plants, continuous provision of water, protection against soil erosion, climatic conditions conducive for to agricultural production, and climate change mitigation.

They are also internationally important for carbon sequestration. Both Governments have expressed interest in carbon trading and in the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) process. The Peace Park will provide the potential to raise tens of millions of dollars over forthcoming decades, ensuring sustained funding for protected area management and community development.

The establishment of the Peace Park will ensure that the long-term conservation of the forests, their biodiversity and global carbon storage benefits is secured through national and international partnerships for improved forest governance across the Sierra Leone–Liberia border.

The Governments of the world need to halt the destruction of the world’s forests, which is responsible for about 20% of current global carbon emissions. This is a major component of the discussions in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Copenhagen this December.

The BirdLife's Partnerships work in the Upper Guinea forests for the past 20 years has involved many organisations and institutions. The new work is with funding from the EU, the USAID STEWARD Program, and CEPF. Other project financingin recent years has come from the EU, the Global Conservation Fund, the UK Darwin Initiative, and FFEM of the Agence Française de Développement.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ghent Belgium to go vegetarin once per week - YAY!


Belgium's made its mark on the culinary world with waffles and chocolate. But could Ghent, Belgium, become the world's first city known for its vegetarianism? Starting today, the city has instituted a weekly "veggie day" in which government officials opt for meatless meals. When school begins again in September, schoolchildren will also have a weekly meat-free day.

Deputy mayor of Ghent Tom Balthazar explained that the reasons for going vegetarian are manifold: in addition to tackling obesity, raising awareness for vegetarianism reduces the city's environmental footprint and helps fight hunger. "Eighteen percent of the greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the meat industry . . . and the fight against hunger will go better and smoother if we eat less meat. For producing one kilogram of meat, you need seven to 10 kilograms of grains," he said.

Citizens of Ghent still have the option to eat meat on "veggie day." However, as Balthazar (who is a self-described flexitarian) explains, the main menu on these days at city schools and many restaurants will be meatless, and the alternative menu will contain meat.

For more info on going vegetarian click here

Thursday, May 7, 2009

'Hobbit' New Species After All, Says Study

by Marlowe Hood, AFP

May 6, 2009 -- Diminutive humans whose remains were found on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in 2003 truly are a new species, and not pygmies whose brains had shriveled with disease, researchers reported Wednesday.

Anthropologists have argued, sometimes bitterly, since the discovery of Homo floresiensis -- dubbed "the hobbit" due to its size -- as to the identity and origins of these distant cave-dwelling cousins.

Measuring about a meter (three feet) and weighing in at 30 kilos (65 pounds), the tiny, tool-making hunters may have roamed the island for which they were named as recently as 8,000 years ago. The fossils are about 18,000 years old.

Many scientists have said H. floresiensis were prehistoric humans descended from Homo erectus, stunted by natural selection over millennia through a process called insular dwarfing.

Others countered that even this evolutionary shrinking, well known in island-bound animals, could not account for the hobbit's chimp-sized grey matter of barely more than 400 cubic centimeters, a third the size of a modern human brain.

And how could such a being have been smart enough to craft its own stone tools?

The only plausible explanation, they insisted, was that the handful of specimens found suffered from a genetic disorder resulting in an abnormally small skull or -- a more recent finding -- that they suffered from "dwarf cretinism" caused by deficient thyroids.

Two new studies in the British journal Nature go a long way toward settling this debate, even as they raise new quandaries that are sure to stoke further controversy.

A team led by William Jungers of the Stony Brook University in New York tackled the problem from the other end by analyzing the hobbit's foot.

In some ways it is very human. The big toe is aligned with the others and the joints make it possible to extend the toes as the body's full weight falls on the foot, attributes not found in great apes.

But, in other respects, it is startlingly primitive: far longer than its modern human equivalent, and equipped with a very small big toe, long, curved lateral toes, and a weight-bearing structure closer to a chimpanzee's.

Recent archaeological evidence from Kenya shows that the modern foot evolved more than 1.5 million years ago, most likely in Homo erectus.

So unless the Flores hobbits became more primitive over time -- a more-than-unlikely scenario -- they must have branched off the human line at an even earlier date.

For Jungers and colleagues, this suggests "that the ancestor of H. floresiensis was not Homo erectus but instead some other, more primitive, hominin whose dispersal into southeast Asia is still undocumented," the researchers conclude.

Companion studies, published online in the Journal of Human Evolution, bolster this theory by looking at other parts of the anatomy, and conjecture that these more ancient forebear may be the still poorly understood Homo habilis.

Either way, their status as a separate species would be confirmed.

Even this compelling new evidence, however, does not explain the hobbit's inordinately small brain.

That's where hippos come into the picture.

Eleanor Weston and Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum in London compared fossils of several species of ancient hippos found on the island of Madagascar with the mainland ancestors from which they had evolved.

They were surprised to find that insular dwarfing -- driven by the need to adapt to an island environment -- shank their brains far more than had previously been thought possible.

"Whatever the explanation for the tiny brain of H. floresiensis relative to its body size, our evidence suggests that insular dwarfing could have played a role in its evolution," they conclude.

While the new studies answer some questions, they also raise new ones sure to spark fresh debate, notes Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman in a comment, also published in Nature.

Only more fossil evidence will tell us whether the hobbits of Flores evolved from Homo erectus, whose traces have been found throughout Eurasia, or from an even more ancient lineage whose footsteps have not yet been traced outside Africa, he said.

In either case, however, it now seems unlikely that they were cretins, in any sense of the word.

Dutch report on Cleve Hicks' work in Northern DRC

Eenvandaag's interview with Cleve Hicks (most of the interview is in English though)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Angelqiue Todd and Bai Hokou on ABC news

In the Jungle With the Gorilla Whisperer
Angelique Todd Has Spent 10 Years Habituating Rare Western Lowland Gorillas


When sneaking up on a silverback gorilla, you want to be quiet and careful.

That's a lesson I learned here in the jungle of the Central African Republic from Angelique Todd, who spends nearly every day of her life with a family of gorillas.

On one particular morning, we were just a few feet from a roughly 500-pound, six-foot-long wild animal, who was alternately daydreaming and nodding off.

"He's sleeping," said Todd. "[The silverback] is the dominant male. So the male gorillas develop this huge size. They're almost double the size of the females."

The silverback in question, named Mikumba, is the head of a family of 11 gorillas.

"So this is one of the infants that we haven't seen yet," said Todd, pointing to a baby gorilla. "He's 2-and-a-half. He spends nearly all his time with his dad."

Todd is something of a modern day Dian Fossey, the American scientist who studied gorillas in Africa and was the inspiration for the movie "Gorillas in the Mist."

But the family of gorillas Todd follows aren't mountain gorillas, the type Fossey studied. They're western lowland gorillas, an animal very few people have ever gotten very close to. Adult males are called silverbacks because their hair turns grey with age.

"For years, all I ever saw was them running away," said Todd. "I didn't see anything at all. Three years. So, whenever I come see them, I'm just so grateful to them for accepting us."

Over many years, Todd -- a researcher with the World Wildlife Fund -- and a team of local Pygmie guides in the Central African Republic have "habituated" the gorillas to human contact.

There is no other place on Earth where you can see the silverback gorilla up close in the wild. It was a difficult, dangerous job, which Todd says involved daily rejection by the gorillas.

"Yes, every day being screamed at," she recalled. "Or being charged and just having to take it and then just moving on. It can be really scary... they can kill you, basically. If you make one charge, for example, if you look too frightened, you never know if he's actually gonna grab you, but you just have to stand there, even though you're really, really scared."

When Mikumba finally roused himself, it became clear why it would be so terrifying to be charged by a silverback gorilla.

"Nightline" spent a day following as the family of gorillas made its way through the jungle, eating as they went.

"So, silverbacks do a lot of stopping and listening so the females go out ahead... and he stays waiting behind, just listening," explained Todd.

While the family moved forward, the silverback loomed in the back, watching over everyone and listening intently for any signs of danger.

Todd and the Pygmies were constantly cooing and clucking, sounds they've used for years to let the gorillas know they're there and harmless.

While filming, something happened that surprised even Todd. Normally the gorillas can only be seen in heavily wooded areas, but suddenly they entered a clearing, where they could be seen in all their glory.

"Oh, Mubenge!" Todd explained excitedly, recognizing one of the gorillas. Even after nine years of following this family, she says it's thrilling each time the gorilla emerges, especially when the silverback Mikumba arrives.

"Here he comes!" she exclaimed. With a rare clear view, there really was a sense of what a majestic beast he is, with a chest that looks armor-plated and forearms that seem the size of car doors.

Even while enjoying a lazy lunch, Mubenge looked like King Kong.

"I worked with captive gorillas for a long time but I would never imagine that I'd be walking around and that we'd have successfully habituated a group of gorillas just to the point that they have no problem with us," said Todd. "I think it's hard for you to imagine how aggressive they can be. If that male wants to go for us now, he's got huge teeth and he's extremely strong and he could just kill you."

Todd knows that firsthand, as she has had to pay a price for her dedication to animals.

"I was attacked by a chimpanzee, eaten by a chimpanzee, 15 years ago in a zoo," she recalled. "There was a hole in the cage, the chimpanzee managed to ... grab my arm out and bring it into [the] cage and bit my thumb and finger off, nearly half of my arm. I'm actually really lucky I kept my arm. And the annoying thing was even though he ate my finger and my thumb he kind of spat them out. I brought them to the hospital and they couldn't put them back on."

Her personal life has also suffered from spending the better part of 10 years in the forest.

"You don't [have a personal life]," she said. "You make huge sacrifices in your life to be in the forest with the gorillas. Once you go down that direction it's tough to turn back and you just hope that someone will turn up. Who knows what will happen. Well, certainly while Mikumba's around, I'll still be here."

While Todd feels safe with the gorillas, she does always have to be on guard for elephants -- possibly the craftiest, most aggressive animal of the jungle. Adult elephants, ever protective of their babies, have attacked Todd and the gorillas before.

An even bigger danger to the gorillas, however, is man.

"If they get the chance, yes, they will eat the gorillas," Todd said of the locals. "And apparently, it's very tasty meat, but I couldn't possibly try it. For people's attitudes here, they're just animals. They don't see that they're sentient beings. They're just meat."

One of the benefits of habituating gorillas is that local people get to spend more time with them and see how near-human they are. Todd's program employs 60 people in the impoverished nation.

However, habituation is controversial because it can make gorillas too trusting and, therefore, more vulnerable to poachers. Bringing tourists in, as Todd sometimes does, can also expose the animals to human diseases.

"I think it's worth the risk," she said. "I really do."

Worth the risk because it gives researchers a chance to study a species that many fear will no longer be with us in 50 years, a species to which Angelique Todd has dedicated her life.

Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


From the HOME project's youtube channel:
HOME is a feature film directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and co-produced by EuropaCorp (Luc Besson's studio) and Elzévir Films and supported by PPR.

HOME is composed of aerial images embracing the major ecological issues while saying that a solution exists.

HOME will be released on June 5th 2009 all over the globe on every format. The aim is to reach the widest audience and to convince us all of our individual and collective responsibility towards the planet.

On June 5th we all have a date with the planet !


English trailer:

French trailer:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Moscow's stray dogs well adapted to Russian metropolitain life

In Moscow's Metro, a Stray Dog's Life Is Pretty Cushy, and Zoologists Notice
From The Wall street Journal online

MOSCOW -- Like human commuters, this city's stray dogs can often be spotted traveling on the subway, waiting patiently for a train to pull in and its doors to slide open.

In Soviet times, dogs were barred from Moscow's metro. Today, however, they are so common there -- curling up on empty seats, nuzzling their neighbors, lounging in stations -- that there is even a Web site devoted to them:

A tiny group of zoologists study Moscow's stray dogs and how they're adapting to a rapidly changing city. Among them is Alexei Vereshchagin. He set out to study wolves -- "such a romantic creature," he says -- but as science funding crumbled with the Soviet government, he couldn't.

WSJ's Mark Schoofs on why stray dogs are everywhere in Moscow, having adapted to the construction boom and learning to share space with humans. Also, zoologist Alexei Vereshchagin on these dogs' behaviors.

So the 31-year-old, rust-bearded Mr. Vereshchagin started studying strays instead, and loved it. "The behavior of stray dogs is like theater," he says.

As the number of cars in Moscow has exploded, and their speed increased from the days of Soviet clunkers, strays have learned to cross the street with pedestrians. They can also be seen occasionally waiting for a green light. (Dogs are colorblind, so researchers theorize they recognize the shape or position of the walking-man signal.)

Back in the lean Soviet era, restaurants and the now-ubiquitous fast-food kiosks were scarce, so dogs were less likely to beg and more likely to forage through garbage, the zoologists say. Foraging dogs prospered best in the vast industrial zones of Moscow, where they lived a semiferal existence. Because they mainly relied on people to throw out food, and less on handouts, they kept their distance from humans.

Now, old factories are being transformed into shopping centers and apartment blocks, so strays have become more avid and skillful beggars. They have developed innovative strategies, zoologists say, such as a come-from-behind ambush technique: A big dog pads up silently behind a man eating on the street and barks. The startled man drops his food. The dog eats it.

Key is the ability to determine which humans are most likely to be startled enough to drop their food. Strays have become master psychologists, says Andrei Poyarkov, 54, the dean of Moscow's stray-dog researchers. "The dogs know Muscovites better than Muscovites know the dogs."
Comfort in Crowds

Perhaps the biggest change, according to Mr. Vereshchagin, a protégé of Mr. Poyarkov, is that strays today hardly need to do anything to get food. One of their chief tactics, made possible by their increasing comfort in crowds, is simply to lie in a busy subway passage, where thousands of people pass by, and wait for someone to toss them something. The dogs get fed without even having to go to the trouble of nuzzling a leg.

Moscow today provides an environment of "unlimited resources," says Mr. Vereshchagin.

Mr. Vereshchagin strolls through a market area near a metro station, pointing out that even though there are now more strays than ever in Moscow, the dogs don't have a lean and hungry look. The leader of this area's dog pack, whose coat is dirty-white with black patches, rises from a nap, stretches lazily, and lopes off to a butcher shop. He stands outside for just a few seconds before a meaty bone is tossed at his feet. He carries it off, but just nibbles at it.

In fact, many dogs ignore discarded morsels, because the animals are so sated they can afford to be finicky, says Mr. Vereshchagin.

Unlike the strays he studies, Mr. Vereshchagin can't be so picky. The city has provided funding only for sporadic dog censuses, the last one in 2006, which estimated the population of stray dogs at about 26,000. So Mr. Vereshchagin, who has yet to finish his thesis, makes ends meet by training people's pets and working as a part-time paramedic.

Adaptations by individual dogs have added up to a dramatic shift in canine culture. Begging is a submissive activity, so today there are fewer all-out interpack wars, which sometimes used to last for months, according to Mr. Poyarkov. Within packs there are more stable social hierarchies that allow the whole group to prosper.

Still, there are occasional attacks on human beings, like one in April in which a 55-year-old man was killed by a pack of strays living in a rambling and overgrown park. Mr. Vereshchagin says he doesn't have firsthand information about this attack, but says that dogs living in forested areas aren't as familiar with people and are more likely to aggressively defend their territory.
Reignited Controversy

The death has reignited a controversy. Even while the city has allocated the equivalent of $63 million mainly to build animal shelters and carry out related programs, some people are calling for a return to the Soviet practice of culling strays.

Still, many Muscovites appear to enjoy, or at least tolerate, the dog population. The vast majority of homeless dogs go out of their way to avoid antagonizing people, says Mr. Vereshchagin. Even pooping in the metro is rare, he says.

Many Muscovites feed the strays and build simple winter shelters for them. Older people particularly seek companionship in Russia's new capitalist economy, which can be ruthlessly dog-eat-dog.

And strays form part of the city's character. When a disturbed fashion model several years ago stabbed to death a gentle stray that lived at the Mendeleyevskaya metro station, horrified celebrities and ordinary city residents raised money and erected a bronze statue of the dog, Malchik. One of novelist Mikhail Bulgakov's most beloved stories, "Heart of a Dog," features a stray named Sharik who takes human form as a slovenly proletarian.

Moscow has done almost as much adapting to the new culture of dogs as the dogs have done. A strong animal-rights lobby is part of that. Ilya Bluvstein, leader of Fauna, an animal-defense organization affiliated with Russia's Green Party, warns of potential corruption in the city's proposed shelter program. Groups that win the contracts, he fears, will take money to house dogs but actually kill them to cut expenses and fatten profits.

Meanwhile, in a metro station, three dogs nap. One of them rises, wanders a few steps to some discarded potatoes, sniffs, nibbles, then goes back to sleep. There will be more and better food later.

Write to Mark Schoofs at
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A1