In 2013 there was a strange sight on Neumarkt, a central square in Cologne: 1600 pandas. They were not only touring pandas, they also had an important mission.
2013 was the 50th anniversary of WWF Germany and the NGO chose to send panda sculptures on a tour through 25 German cities. Starting in Berlin, they would stay in each city for just two days. Cologne was the 19th stop of their tour. In total, 1600 papier-mâché were created, each representing a panda that still lives in the wild. Their natural habitat was shrinking due to deforestation and other development. Recently, the Giant Pandas have been reclassified as vulnerable from endangered.
Next stop: Cologne
The Neumarkt is the biggest square in Cologne and located at the other end of a pedestrian shopping street that will lead all the way to the Cologne’s central station and the cathedral. It’s also an important station in Cologne’s public transport. The square is used for flea markets and a Christmas market. On most days, the square is unused.
That’s a lot of space for 1600 pandas! Of course I didn’t count them. Signs reminded people to not throw, sit on, steal and build pyramids with the pandas. Otherwise they were free to move them on the square. People built rows of pandas, circles, hearts and other shapes. And they took photos. Lots and lots of photos.
WWF members were nearby to answer questions about conservation efforts of endangered species like the Giant Panda or the Siberian Tiger.
Fate of the papier-mâché pandas
The papier-mâché pandas were sold after the tour for a donation + 15 Euro shipping fee. While the panda tour came to an end, the fight for the survival of many endangered species continues to this day.
City mayors were given a species protection suitcase containing “travel souvenirs” confiscated by the customs office. These suitcases should be used for educational purposes to teach children about protecting the environment.
Location + more info
1.600 Pandabären erobern Berlin (German)