Coronavirus and tourism: Without tourists, animals take over towns in Japan, Thailand and Chile

Tours are cancelled. Restaurants are empty. And centuries-old temples are quieter than usual in the ancient capital city of Japan, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

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

All except the deer. The daily life of the town's treasured animal remains virtually unchanged.

While most of the 1,000 odd deer stay within the boundaries of their 1,240 acre grassy park, some wander off to gift shops and restaurants across the street from the park. The deer have the right of way, and drivers honour it.

Usually, Nara's tourists line up to take selfies with the deer and feed them sugar-free treats or "deer crackers," which are mostly made of wheat flour. 

Some of the deer have been trained to bow on command in receipt of these treats.

A stack of crackers runs out fast when a dozen deer swarm around a generous feeder, nodding their heads as if they are giving a Japanese-style bow.

When done feeding, visitors simply hold up their empty hands toward the deer, who take the hint and magically disperse.

However, now that the park has now emptied of tourists. the deer are wandering the city in search of food.

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On social media, deer have reportedly trotted through subway stations and streets, dodging traffic or stopping to nibbling on potted plants.

Speaking with the New York Times, urban ecologist Christopher Schell said the deer were probably going to be OK.

"Most animals living in urban environments already have flexible diets," he said.

In Thailand, another species used to being fed by tourists is being forced to fend for themselves.

Three troupes of boisterous macaque monkeys were captured in a massive brawl over a pot of yoghurt that was thrown among them.

The town of Lopburi, which is 150km north of Bangkok, is well known for the somewhat intimidating creatures, who inhabit the Phra Prang Sam Yot monkey temple and are kept satiated by a steady stream of visitors.

Each year the monkeys are guests of honour at the Lopburi Monkey Festival, where a huge banquet of food is laid out for the primates. The offerings are thought to bring the people of Lopburi good luck, who respect the mischievous creatures.

That good luck may not extend to visitors, who often are subjected to the animal's aggression and theft -which includes, but is not limited to, bags and purses.

Although brawls between the monkeys are not unusual, huge fights indicate a scarcity of food among them. 

Meanwhile in the Chilean capital of Santiago, a puma was spotted roaming its largely deserted streets before jumping a fence into someone's backyard.

Officials believe it came down from the hills and was able to approach the city as the streets were empty.

It was later restrained by officials from Chile's Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) and taken to the national zoo. It is said to be in good health.

AP, with Kylie McLaughlin

See also: Shuttered aquarium takes penguins on a field trip

See also: Sirens wailing, police tore down the streets of Mallorca. What happens next was unexpected

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