A female deer in Japan’s famous Nara Park was found to have consumed nearly 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of plastic following its death in March.
The discovery comes in a recent report from the Nara Deer Welfare Association, which claimed that the protected animals have been eating plastic, leading to multiple deaths in recent months.
The 17-year-old deer was found unable to stand near the park’s Todaiji temple on March 23.
Despite attempts to feed it, the animal, which weighed 30 kilograms (66 pounds) — 10 kilograms (22 pounds) below normal — refused to eat.
— 一般財団法人奈良の鹿愛護会 (@nara_aigokai) June 29, 2018
Unfortunately, the deer died the following day. An autopsy revealed that its stomach contained what appeared to be hardened polyethylene bags, which weighed a total of 3.2 kilograms (7 pounds).
“Sometimes, garbage is found in the stomach of a weakened deer. However, it’s unusual to see such a large amount of it,” said Rie Maruko, the veterinarian who performed the autopsy, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
“The deer was old, and it is possible she died of old age. But she was skinny and her fur was dull. Apparently, she couldn’t take in enough nutrition because her stomach was blocked by the plastic bags.”
Signs in Nara Park prohibit visitors from feeding deers anything other than senbei crackers, which are sold by vendors throughout the area. However, rulebreakers ignore such warnings at the expense of the animals, feeding them food out of plastic bags, which they apparently bite into.
— 一般財団法人奈良の鹿愛護会 (@nara_aigokai) March 28, 2019
Deer acquire nutrients from plant-based food through an initial fermentation that produces cud, which is then regurgitated and rechewed for further breakdown before actual digestion.
As it turned out, the deer consumed too much plastic that it failed to regurgitate, digest and ingest new food.
— 一般財団法人奈良の鹿愛護会 (@nara_aigokai) April 26, 2019
Since March, six of eight Nara deer that died from unknown causes had plastic bags in their stomachs. According to SoraNews24, the largest clump weighed 4.3 kilograms (9.5 pounds).
For now, the association appeals to visitors to be more careful of what they feed deers. Additionally, people are reminded to take their litter with them.
To reduce plastic usage, the association also developed eco-friendly “Otomo” bags, which can be used to carry things around in the area. They are sold in souvenir stores for 1,350 yen ($12.33).
Featured Images via Twitter / @nara_aigokai (left image representation only)