A Japanese city has come up with a plan to protect 1200 sacred deer from adoring fans.
In Nara the herds of semi-domesticated sacred deer are world famous. Sika deer are regularly seen walking serenely through the streets. Tamed by tourists who leave them offerings of food, there are now worries the deer could be adored to death.
Last year one of the Sika deer dropped dead. It was discovered to have 4 kilograms of plastic waste in its stomach.
The deer are protected by ancient law. Killing one is a crime punishable by death, though the last time this was enforced was 1637.
However, arcane laws have not protected them from the problem of plastic waste.
Grazing on food offerings and things unintentionally left behind, the deer are doing themselves harm by ingesting plastic bags and food packaging. One local group has come up with a solution: digestible bags made out of rice paper. They are made from similar materials to the 'deer crackers' sold to feed the animals.
Designed by a local paper company and with funding from the Central Shinkin Bank, they set about creating a recognisable 'deer friendly' bag.
Talking to BBC Japan Takashi Nakamura one of the bag's manufacturers said that they are made out of rice bran and recycled paper cartons. This ingenuity was recently rewarded by the Japan Packaging Contest 2020.
The edible bags are made out of similar ingredients to the rice 'deer crackers' which tourists buy to feed the deer.
Nakamura told the BBC that they have sold over 3000 bags to local businesses. At 100 yen or $1.44, the bags are a little pricier than other bags sold at pharmacies and grocery stores, but the group is convinced that locals and tourists will pay the difference to protect the town's majestic deer.
The Sika Deer which belong to the Nara Park near mount Wakakusha, which founded in 1880 is one of the oldest protected scenic parks in Japan. The animals have been there far longer – according to local folklore they have been there since a local deity made a pilgrimage to the mountain, riding a white deer.
While humans are not permitted to harm the deer national newspaper Mainichi Shimbun reported as many as 120 people are injured by deer each year. According to the University of Kyoto the deer underwent a population boom following the Second World War deer culls have been limited and unpopular.