Deer Take over Japanese City

A deer walks across a pedestrian crossing in Nara, Japan.

Jae C. Hong


Tours are cancelled. Restaurants are empty. And centuries-old temples are quieter than usual in the ancient capital city of Japan.

All of Nara is suffering with its Unesco World Heritage Site listed temples shuttered as Japan fights the coronavirus.

All except the deer. The daily life of the town’s ‘treasured animal remains virtually unchanged. More than 1,000 deer wander in the ancient capital of Japan. Despite the decline in tourism in the city, these wild animals are doing well without the treats of tourists, according to the deer protection group.


Deer gather outside a souvenir shop.

Jae C. Hong


While most deer stay within the boundaries of their grassy park, some are being forced to wander off to gift shops and restaurants across the street from the park. The deer have the right of way, and drivers honour it.

Fewer tourists only means a bit more competition for the sugar-free treats or “deer crackers”, which are mostly made of wheat flour.

But Japan is not alone in the rising number of animals appearing in cities.


A puma was spotted roaming the largely-deserted streets of the Chilean capital, Santiago. ATON CHILE/AFP



In Thailand, a mass brawl erupted between three tribes of monkeys in the city of  Lopburi, 150km north of Bangkok.

​It’s believed the fights broke out due to a lack of food from visitors. The area has suffered a drop in tourists because of the coronavirus, as well as an ongoing drought.