London, England - Some 108 performers, dressed in giant panda costumes, turned London's Trafalgar Square into a sea of black and white on Wednesday morning (July 4).
Commuters and passersby stopped to watch the dancers perform a specially choreographed tai chi-inspired dance to mark the first ever Panda Awareness Week (PAW).
Pandas are one of the world's most endangered species. Less than 1,600 animals remain in the wild today. Their shrinking numbers are largely to due to the loss of their natural habitat. Many efforts to increase their numbers are taking place at special breeding centres, such as Chengdu Panda Base in China. The centre started out with only six pandas captured initially, but its numbers have grown considerably. There are now a total of 108 living in Chengdu base - the same number that was reflected in Wednesday's performance.
"Pandas used to be really difficult to breed in captivity, but the Chengdu base and other zoos around the world have cracked the problem and now there's around 400 in captivity. So they're starting to be reintroduced back into the wild. So it's a great conservation success story," said TV conservationist and Pambassador for the Chengdu Panda Base, Nigel Marven.
In an effort to create greater awareness of the black-white bear, Marven and the panda performers will be paying visits to school and engage with members of the public across the capital to educate people about pandas and the conservation efforts in place.
"They're one of the most iconic animals on earth. They're in everyone's top ten favourite animal. They look a little like us with these big eyes. A bear that feeds on bamboo, ninety-nine percent of their diet is bamboo so they're extraordinary to zoologists like me as well, you know they're an incredible animal," Marven said.
Pandas are also referred to as "living fossils". Unlike many of their mammal contemporaries past and present their species has managed to survive, still retaining their traditional features.
The largest number of giant pandas still living in the wild can be found in the mountains in China's Sichuan province, where they're considered a national treasure.
RTV via CBS Newspath