Wild About Babies, a collection of 21 bronze animal sculptures, showcases the astonishing diversity of wildlife on our planet. Unveiled on 7 September, in honour of National Threatened Species Day, this exhibition serves as a powerful reminder of the need to protect our planet's most vulnerable wildlife.
Created by renowned international artists Gillie and Marc, these sculptures bring endangered baby animals to life, evoking a sense of wonder and urgency for their conservation. The exhibition was generously donated to the Zoo by the artists, so we took this opportunity to chat to them about their inspiration, their artistic process, and the message they have for the world.
Perth Zoo: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind Wild About Babies and what motivated you to create it?
Gillie and Marc: “Every time we create a large-scale wildlife public sculpture our number one aim is to help people to fall in love with wildlife. As we were brainstorming ideas for this particular project, we started to think about what can pull on heartstrings more than anything. Babies! We can’t resist them. The parental instinct comes out in everyone. We can’t help but want to protect them. So we thought, why not turn this natural reaction into a force to inspire wildlife conservation?”
Perth Zoo: How did you decide on the selection of animals featured in the exhibition? Were there specific criteria or stories that guided your choices?
Gillie and Marc: “We wanted to make sure we had a diversity of animals. They should come from right around the globe, from different habitats, different species, and different struggles. And of course, they all had to be significantly threatened by extinction. This way we could help the public to visualise how widespread the extinction crisis really is. It isn’t just affecting a select group of species or animals in a few parts of the world. Some of our most iconic animals are struggling.”
Perth Zoo: What challenges did you face in translating these endangered animals into bronze sculptures, and how did you overcome them?
Gillie and Marc: “The biggest struggle is always in getting the expressions perfect. These are the most important. People need to be able to look into their faces and feel like they’re actually looking into the eyes of a real animal. This is the way to create the strongest bonds and inspire people to care. To get them right, we’ve spent years studying, sketching, and photographing the real animals. We then use this as a template, bringing in expressions we’ve witnessed.”
Perth Zoo: The attention to detail in each sculpture is remarkable. Could you shed some light on your creative process, from conceptualization to the final artwork?
Gillie and Marc: “The key really is in the initial character study. We can’t explain how many hours we’ve spent studying and sketching many, many different animals over the years. We have regular trips to different parts of the world to see animals up close, watching how they move and interact with their environment. Once we have an idea for a sculpture, we refer back to the studies we’ve done in the past. From these, we style the position and the expressions of each animal, trying to make them as close to the real behaviours as we can. This is then copied over into the mould to be cast in bronze. It’s a long process but the detail is crucial.”
Perth Zoo: Wildlife conservation is a prominent theme in your art. What role do you believe art plays in raising awareness about environmental issues, particularly the plight of endangered species?
Gillie and Marc: “Public art tells stories. It’s a powerful medium to share important messages, rally others to a cause, and encourage us to think deeply about certain issues. This is definitely true for wildlife conservation and works particularly well in large cities where people are removed from nature. It’s a way to bring wildlife into their world, acting as a reminder that they are there and need our help.
Our mission is to fill the world with inspiring public art that spreads messages of love, equality, conservation and hope. As public sculpture artists and wildlife activists, our method is to put wildlife front and centre in cities across the planet, making unforgettable experiences and recreating connections with the wild world. We aim to inspire a community that passionately works for change and unity so we can all live in a better world tomorrow.
Just like our hero David Attenborough said, ‘No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.
Wildlife touched both of our lives from a very early age, creating a beautiful connection we hope to ignite in everybody. But it saddens us that this connection is becoming a scarcity. From the day we first went to Africa some 50 years ago, 68% of wildlife has disappeared. This is the greatest extinction crisis our planet has ever seen.”
Perth Zoo: What message do you hope viewers will take away from the exhibition?
Gillie and Marc: “We hope that people will begin to understand the extent of the extinction crisis and how quickly it is happening. But more importantly, we hope they understand that they can make a difference, even if they’re far away from many of these animals. Every loss affects every living thing, even if it’s on the other side of the world. We must stand together and protect all wildlife.”
Wild About Babies is on display now at Perth Zoo with additional sculptures at Windsor Park, Elizabeth Quay and Yagan Square.