The Nara prefectural government says the preservation group that looks after Nara Park's deer has failed to properly take care of the animals.
Tourists from Japan and overseas come to see the deer that inhabit the park in western Japan. In 1957, the central government designated the deer living in and around the park as a national treasure to better protect them. But some deer cause problems, such as eating crops and attacking people.
The Nara Deer Preservation Foundation apprehends such deer and keeps over 200 of them in an area surrounded by fences.
A veterinarian says in a report that these deer were not adequately fed and left weakened, and that this amounts to abuse.
The report has prompted the prefectural government to carry out an investigation.
Nara officials said on Monday they found the foundation failed to meet international standards on animal welfare, including on quality and methods of feeding.
They also said the facility was overcrowded and lacked resting space for the animals.
The officials said the foundation bears a heavy responsibility, and that the prefectural government is also responsible for failing to grasp the situation. They also said the foundation should rectify the situation after seeking advice from experts.
The officials added they will set up a team involving veterinarians and those from farm industries to discuss the future of the facility, and compile measures in about a year.
Nara Governor Yamashita Makoto said his prefecture will have to review the current rules for keeping the deer. He also said that if the budget related to the deer is insufficient, he wants to talk with Nara City and others to consider increasing it.
A senior official of the foundation said the group will seek to improve conditions for the animals under the guidance of experts.