The Vietnamese authorities have confirmed that more than 700 endangered moon bears held in captivity have died in the last year.
Figures released this week by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) show that 1,245 bears remain in captivity, down from 1,987 in 2014.
The number of deaths has been attributed to old age by the authorities. However, Animals Asia believes there is also significant numbers of bears dying due to other causes.
For every captive bear that dies, the authorities are required to carry out an autopsy to confirm the cause of death and to oversee the disposal and burial of the corpse to prevent body parts being illegally sold on the black market. It remains unclear whether such protocol has been followed for the 742 bears who have died since the last official numbers were released.
It follows the high profile situation in Halong Bay where 49 bears, whose malnutrition and lack of care was highlighted by Animals Asia in November 2014, have seen their numbers drop to 19.