Volunteers on Wednesday began the cleanup of plastic bags and trash in Japan’s famous Nara Park to try to protect the area’s wild deer.
Park officials said nine of 14 deer that have died since March had masses of tangled plastic in their stomachs, with the heaviest amount weighing 4.3 kilograms (9.5 pounds).
The picturesque park in Japan’s capital is home to more than 1,000 sika deer that are considered sacred and have protected “national treasure” status.
Tourists may feed the deer special crackers, “shika senbei,” that are sugar-free and not wrapped in plastic. Officials of the Nara Deer Welfare Foundation say some visitors offer the animals other types of snacks.
“The deer probably think that the snacks and the plastic packs covering them are both food,” foundation official Yoshitaka Ashimura said. “The only way to prevent this is to remove all the garbage.”