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‘Deer friendly’ bags all-rage in Japanese city to save their doe-eyed from toxic plastics

Mon 26 Oct 2020    
| 3 min read

Nara Park in western Japan is home to an impressive herd of wild deers, that draw massive tourist crowds.

But often these hoofed mammals suffer from accidental consumption of plastic bags discarded by the visitors to their home. Acknowledging this concern, local companies have now succeeded in developing paper bags that the animals can safely digest.

A lone deer feeding on the flora at Japanese city, Nara’s biggest tourist attraction — the Nara Park. [Image: Gaijinpot Travel]

The ‘deer-friendly’ bags forego harmful materials and are put together with rice bran, hence posing fewer health risks if eaten, according to one of the three developers.

“We made the paper with the deer in mind,” said Hidetoshi Matsukawa, president of Naraism. “Tourism in Nara is supported by deer and we will protect them, and also promote the bags as a brand for the Nara economy.”

Discarded plastic litter poses a severe threat to the deer dwelling in and around the vast park. In 2019, piles of the toxic material was found twisted into knots in the stomachs of several dead deer.

Over 1,000 of the herbivores prance about freely in the park and visitors are allowed to feed them with digestive and sugar-free deer crackers, or “shika sembei.”

The crackers, on sale in nearby shops, do not come wrapped in plastic.

A group of deer huddle around a tourist as he hands out the ‘shika sembei’ or deer crackers [Image: Gaijinpot Travel]

However, the problem arises when tourists resort to offering the deer various other snacks taken from plastic bags.

The rice bran — an ingredient in the deer crackers — and pulp recycled from milk packages, have been used to craft the digestible bags. They dissolve easily in water, and as such lack the durability of normal paper, according to the firm, based in the town of Tawaramoto, Nara Prefecture.

As the new paper is designed to be as safe as possible for the animals, development came with its fair share of problems, such as doing away with the powdery nature of the paper which had caused printing machines to clog up, Matsukawa, 43, said.

The rice bran-fashioned ‘gentle bags’ that will impact minimal harm to wildlife if consumed [Image: Facebook: @naranoshikasan]

Nara Chuo Shinkin Bank, a cooperative financial institution, about a 30-minute drive from the park, has already purchased 3,000 of the deer-friendly bags to support the local companies’ efforts, its executive Teruo Nakata said.

The bank has been handing out the bags to its clients to help them carry documents and they have become quite the talked-about innovation in the area, Nakata said.

[Sourced from Agencies]