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Japan’s beloved deer are gradually leaving Nara Park, but it’s not all bad news

Japan’s Nara Park deer have been forced to venture into the city in search of food now that coronavirus has seen a sudden halt in tourists. But there’s a silver lining.

In a Planet of the Apes-esque plotline, one of the more unlikely outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic is that animals across the world, who had previously relied on tourists for food, are rediscovering their natural foraging instincts.

We’ve seen it in the Thai monkey’s going rogue and taking over the city centre, and we are seeing it again with the deer of Japan’s beloved Nara park, who are venturing out beyond the parklands in search of food now that the usual stream of tourists is no more.

Nara Park Deer

Usually, about 1,200 wild deer roam Nara, Japan’s first capital, wandering the ancient city’s parklands amongst tourists. The local Sika deer are a cultural darling of Japan and attract thousands of visitors to the site each year.

Over time, the steady increase of tourism in the area has led to the deer becoming accustomed to existing amongst a constant flow of people. Treasured for their gentle nature, they’ve become unfazed by the close proximity of onlookers, much unlike how wild deer usually are.

Happy reported on the Japanese Sika deer back in May, after stunning photography showed the creatures, a symbol of peace and innocence in the country, basking under the cherry blossoms and enjoying a well-deserved break from the constant flow of tourists that visit the area.

Switching from their usual hand-fed diet of $2 Shika Senbei crackers that visitors buy in nearby vending machines, the coronavirus pandemic has seen the deer population eat their way through the natural flora in the parklands and migrate to the empty city streets to try and find food. Now, these herbivores are seeking out their pre-tourist diet of plants and eating private gardens in the city centre (unfortunately wreaking havoc amongst the local residences).

However, Japanese University Professor, Tatsuzawa Shiro said in an interview with NHK that “as a result of fewer tourists, the deer are also learning how to ruminate,” concluding that maybe this abrupt change isn’t all bad, and perhaps the change in scenery will “lead to better health of these deer.”

We sure hope it does.