Papier-mâché pandas were already winning the hearts of Hongkongers as they checked in at the airport yesterday. But their creator says he hopes fans focus on conservation, not cuteness.
About 400 of the 1,600 panda sculptures - one for every panda left in the wild - appeared in the arrivals hall at Chek Lap Kok to start a "tour" of the city - and excited passengers were quick to snap pictures with them. But French sculptor Paulo Grangeon would rather the fans thought about how to save real pandas, and support the work of the tour's organiser, conservation charity WWF.
Watch: 1600 paper pandas begin their tour in Hong Kong
"I don't want to make this event only about taking photos," Grangeon said. "I hope 10 per cent think [about conservation], and 5 per cent become new [WWF] members."
Made from recycled paper, rice and environment-friendly paint, Grangeon's 1600 Pandas has already won hearts and minds in Taiwan and Europe. The pandas come in six designs and sizes.
While the 62-year-old artist stresses his creations "are not cartoons and they are not toys", Nicole Lam Siu-wai, a 19-year-old student who visited the airport to see the pandas, said: "Most people just focus on the event because they think the pandas are so cute, but not many know the meaning [behind it]."
The pandas will visit locations across the city in the next couple of weeks before a longer stay at PMQ.
They will be at the former police married quarters in Central, which opened last month as a new artistic space for the city, from June 25 to July 17.
Four special panda designs will also be on show at PMQ.
They will then be sold for an "adoption fee" of between HK$200 and HK$450 per head to raise money for WWF Hong Kong. PMQ will also host workshops from June 28 to July 17 at which people can learn how to make their own papier-mâché panda. The fee, which also goes to WWF, is HK$188, and online registration starts on June 16.
Between 300 and 1,000 pandas will join "flash mobs" at each of these venues
Today, noon to 3pm: Ma Wan
Saturday, 1pm to 4pm: Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower
June 19, noon to 2pm: Victoria Park in Causeway Bay
June 20, noon to 3pm: Trams
June 21, 8am to 10pm: Statue Square in Central
All of the pandas will be on display at PMQ in Central from June 25 to July 17