A colony of over 1,600 pandas took over the royal ceremonial ground of Sanam Luang in Bangkok’s old town district on Friday afternoon, kicking off a series of flash-mob-style art installations to highlight the dwindling numbers of pandas remaining the wild around the world.
The papier-mâché pandas, part of a touring exhibition by a French artist, are miniature in size, but each is crafted to depict an individual position and expression. Launched in 2008, the 1600 Pandas+ World Tour has already taken in major international cities including Hong Kong, Paris and Kuala Lumpur, and will visit a total of eight sites in Bangkok as well as making an appearance at Ayutthaya’s Golden Mount temple.
Each of the flash-mob appearances lasts just three hours; among other locations in the capital are Hualamphong railway station, Lumpini Park, the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre at National Stadium, and the old town’s Giant Swing and Phra Sumen fort. The site of a final popup appearance will be decided by way of a public vote on the exhibition’s Facebook page, before the pandas form a more permanent exhibition inside Phloen Chit’s Central Embassy shopping centre from 24 March to 10 April.
The tour has already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for wildlife conservation charity the World Wide Fund for Nature, by selling the papier-mâché models after their final appearance in each city. It follows a recent exhibition of individually designed elephant statues, fashioned by celebrity personalities including the late map designer Nancy Chandler, that rotated around different parts of Bangkok. That project was as part of a similar campaign to increase awareness of the plight of Thailand’s national animal and raise funds for elephant conservation efforts.