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Pandas to help elephants, tigers and even mall

French artist Paulo Grangeon created 1,600 papier-mache pandas to raise awareness about endangered species. They will be touring Bangkok in March.

BANGKOK -- A parade of 1,600 papier-mache pandas will be touring Bangkok next month as part of a worldwide campaign for the conservation of the endangered species.

     Campaigning in a country that has no wild pandas at all may sound odd, but the message from World Wide Fund for Nature Thailand goes beyond just the pandas. There is a vast population of wild animals such as Asian elephants and Bengal tigers in Thailand. This latest campaign is to raise awareness for the conservation of these species. All the pandas will be offered for "adoption" for 600 baht ($16.8) at the end of the exhibition and proceeds will be donated to WWF Thailand.

Barom Bhicharnchitr, managing director of Central Embassy, hopes the pandas will bring more visitors to the Bangkok mall.

     The pandas, created with recycled materials by French artist Paulo Grangeon, represent the 1,600 or so that were left in the wild when the campaign was first launched in France in 2008. Since then, the art project has traveled to around 100 locations in the world and the number of wild pandas has increased to 1,864, according to the WWF.

     In the Thailand tour, the pandas will appear at 10 landmarks in Bangkok and the ancient city of Ayutthaya, in a flash-mob style. They will be on exhibit for just three hours at each spot from Mar. 3 to 16.

     After that, the pandas will be on exhibition through April 10 at Central Embassy, the luxurious shopping mall of retail giant Central Group in Bangkok.

     It is also hoped that the pandas will draw visitors to the mall which opened just before the military staged a coup in May 2014. The country's economy and consumer confidence have been sluggish since.

     "Pandas are cute and the campaign will attract everyone from young children to families and tourists," Barom Bhicharnchitr, managing director of the mall said.

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