Nara deer: Nine dead animals found to have plastic in their stomachs

Wednesday 10th July 2019 16:00 BST

Nara Park is home to hundreds of freely roaming deer and tourists can feed them special sugar-free crackers sold in shops nearby.

The crackers do not come in plastic bags, but some tourists are apparently giving the deer other snacks in plastic.

The Nara Deer Preservation Foundation said nine of the 14 deer that have died since March had plastic in their stomachs.

Masses of tangled plastic litter and packets of snacks were retrieved from their stomachs, with the heaviest amount weighing 4.3kg.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported the animals’ habit of eating plastic bags is likely to be linked to the fact that tourists take food from such bags to feed the deer.

It quoted the foundation’s veterinarian Rie Maruko as saying the deer learn that such bags contain food or are tempted by the smell coming from the discarded packages, leading them to accidentally eat the objects.

"The deer that died were very skinny and I was able to feel their bones," Maruko told Kyodo News.

The news agency also said the Nara prefectural government planned to investigate the situation and step up efforts to warn visitors not to feed deer anything other than specific food.

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Deer have four-chambered stomachs and eating objects that cannot be digested can leave them malnourished and weakened.

They are traditionally seen as messengers of gods in Japan's native Shinto religion and are a symbol of the city.

Volunteers participated in a clean-up campaign in the park on Wednesday.

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