Following the death of 9 of the 14 famous Japanese wild deer in Nara Park since March, tourists were discouraged from feeding them. It is suspected that the deaths were caused by the ingestion of copious amounts of plastic which were found in their stomachs, based on the report by the Nara Deer Preservation Foundation.
One of the animals has a shocking 4.3kg (9.4lbs) of plastic in its system as per Kyodo news agency reports. The tourists feed the animals and leave the plastic bags and wrappers in the area. The deer, drawn to the scent of the food, mistakenly consume the plastic assuming it to be the food they were previously fed.
Home to about 1,200 sika deer which are considered sacred and are protected under the ‘national treasure’ status, the popular tourist attraction spans 5000 sqm. Tourists visit the area in hoards hoping to witness the deer bow, which they have learnt to perform when seeking to be fed.
However, the tourists have been told the shika senbei snacks (Japanese rice crackers) is the only permitted snack as they are sold in environmentally-friendly packaging from local stalls.
The Kyodo report further stated that the vets observed that they could fel the bones of the deer due to acute malnourishment. An image of a pile of plastic bags found inside the stomach of one of a dead deer with the warning: “Don’t throw away rubbish in Nara Park!” was tweeted to raise awareness about the same. The government intends make more changes to help the animals in and around the area.