Nine sacred deer in famous Nara park in Japan are found dead after eating plastic waste – with one animal ingesting nearly 10 pounds of litter
- Nara Park is home to around 1,200 deer protected as a national treasure
- Tourists can feed the special sugar-free deer crackers sold in stores near the park
- Nara Deer Preservation Foundation thinks deer think plastic wrap is food
- Vets found a plastic mass weighing 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg) in one of the deer
Nine deer have died after swallowing plastic waste found in an idyllic park in western Japan.
The Nara Deer Preservation Foundation said masses of plastic bags and snack pouches were found in the stomachs of deer.
The largest plastic mass found in one of the nine dead deer was 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg) and all of the animals died between March and June of this year.
The scenic park in the former capital of Japan is home to more than 1,000 deer, and tourists can feed them special sugar-free crackers sold in nearby stores.
It is forbidden to give them food other than crackers, but Ashimura said some visitors offer animals other types of snacks.
Nine deer died after swallowing plastic bags in Nara Park (pictured) in western Japan between March and June this year
The largest plastic mass found in one of the nine dead deer was 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg), foundation official Yoshitaka Ashimura said.
“Deer probably think the snacks and the plastic wrappers that cover them are both food,” he said, adding that the animals normally eat grass and acorns.
“They could also eat plastic bags thrown on the floor,” he said, adding that he believed such cases had increased recently “due to the increasing number of visitors”.
âThe only way to avoid this is to remove all the garbage. “
The number of tourists visiting the city of Nara where the park is located has increased in recent years, with 16 million visitors in 2017. Volunteers took part in a clean-up campaign in the park on Wednesday.
Rie Maruko, a veterinarian who belongs to the animal conservation group, was quoted by Kyodo News as saying the dead deer were so skinny he could smell their bones.
Deer have four-chambered stomachs, and eating items that cannot be digested can leave them undernourished and weakened.
Deer are traditionally a messenger from the gods in the native Shinto religion of Japan, and they roam freely in the park in the capital of Nara Prefecture and are protected as a national treasure.
The number of tourists visiting the city of Nara where the park is located has increased in recent years, with 16 million visitors in 2017.
Volunteers took part in a clean-up campaign in the park on Wednesday.
WHY ARE THE DEER IN NARA PARK PROTECTED AS NATIONAL TREASURES?
Nara Park, which sits at the foot of Mount Wakakusa in western Japan, is one of the oldest parks in the country where approximately 1,200 sika deer roam free.
Takemikazuchi no Mikoto, one of the four gods of Kasuga Shrine, is said to have traveled to Nara on top of a deer. Due to this legend, deer are considered sacred because they were considered to be helpers of God.
Killing a sika deer was previously a capital crime, with the last recorded death for this crime being in 1637. They were given protected status in 1957.
Visitors to the park can purchase special sugar-free crackers to feed the deer. In 2016, 79 people were injured while giving animals âshika senbeiâ (deer crackers).