A giant panda rests by the pond.
A giant panda living in captivity in southwestern China is suspected to have contracted an eye disease transmitted by follicle mites, according to reports.
Netizens raised concerns over the condition of Qi Yi after images posted online by visitors to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding showed the animal with white scabbing around her eyes.
Li Jie, an official of the base in Sichuan province, said on Tuesday that researchers were yet to determine the cause of the white scabs. She declined to provide more information.
However, on Monday, an anonymous employee at the base was quoted by Shanghai news website ThePaper as saying that as many as 10 pandas were infected with mites.
The regular treatment used for infected pandas had failed to remedy the problem due to the animals' varying responses to drugs. New drugs have been introduced, but are still undergoing safety tests, the source said.
Chinese media have reported that the research base performs preventive treatment monthly against mites and treats pandas infected with mites with drugs.
Mites, tiny members of the class arachnida, are usually 0.5 mm in size and may transmit diseases in certain conditions.
"Sichuan is much more damp than other areas of China, which offers a great environment for bacteria reproduction, including mites. Some of the pandas are sensitive to the bacteria, so it's probable for them to get infected," the base employee told ThePaper. "But it's an incidental case with low infectivity."
Safety tests are almost finished on newly introduced drugs, which will be used to treat the infected pandas as soon as they are confirmed safe.
The giant panda breeding base is now in active cooperation with experts of Sichuan Agricultural University to tackle the panda's eye disease.