To borrow a title from a cartoon episode of Disney's Mickey Mouse, a 'Panda-monium' is sweeping Seoul!
Last Sunday, when I was making my way to the eastern area of Seoul, I decided to make a detour at the Seoul Plaza. Why? A huge crowd was gathered at the Seoul Plaza, not just to enjoy an animation festival, but to satisfy their fascination with an endangered species: the panda!
I just had to join them. The crowd, that is. Not the pandas. Ha-ha-ha!
Corralled around the green mats on the Seoul Plaza, the well-travelled pandas, in their black and white colors, and smokey, dopey eyes, were enjoying the attention and fascination of the crowd, who were all busy taking their photographs and selfies.
Just to make sure if the pandas really numbered one thousand six hundred, I asked Fiona, a WWF volunteer from Hong Kong, about the count. She told me that they actually number 1,600. And to make sure none of the pandas disappear, volunteers like Fiona watched over these papier-mache artworks and kept crowd from getting inside the circle.
These pandas have travelled to different cities around the world before they flew to Seoul. These jet-setters are in Korea to raise awareness on the plight of endangered species, like themselves, the tigers, the rhinos, the gorillas, and marine turtles.
According to the project's website, the pandas would be meeting fans in different spots of the city. And today, Sunday, their last day in Korea, they will be at Seoul Tower. So, if you have time today, you can see the pandas from 12noon up to 5PM.
Actually, there are 1,864 pandas left in the world, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) website based on their 2014 census. The ones in the wild number 1,600 plus, while the rest are in zoos and breeding centers.
This rare visit of 1,600 papier-mache pandas is a project of the French bureau of WWF and the French artist Paulo Grangeon. And with everyone's support for these endangered species and wildlife conservation, this number will definitely increase.
And perhaps for their next visit, Monsieur Grangeon will have to make more papier-mache pandas.
Here's the official project website.