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.
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.
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.