Tokyo: Deer are traditionally a messenger of gods in Japan's native Shinto religion.
They are also an attraction at Nara Park in western Japan where they roam freely and tourists can feed them special sugar-free crackers sold in shops nearby.
Nara, Japan. Deer roam freely and are fed by tourists here, but the animals are dying from eating plastic waste left behind.Credit:Shutterstock
Now nine of the famed park's 1000 deer have died after swallowing plastic bags.
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 4.3 kilograms.
A volunteer picks up plastic rubbish during a clean-up campaign at Nara Park in western Japan on Wednesday.Credit:Kyodo News/AP
The crackers tourists feed the animals don't come in plastic bags, but people still carry them. A veterinarian said the deer may associate the plastic with food.
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 feel their bones.
Deer have four-chambered stomachs and eating objects that can't be digested can leave them malnourished and weakened.
Volunteers participated in a clean-up campaign in the park on Wednesday.
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