Giant pandas dead from killer illness in China
Giant pandas dead from killer illness in China Getty

A deadly virus has killed two of China's precious giant panda bears and struck down a third of the prized animals.

Captive pandas Chengcheng and Dabao died after contracting canine distemper virus, which has a high mortality rate of 80%.

A third panda, Feng Feng, is in a serious condition with the virus which has caused damage to its internal organs, including the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.

An emergency has been declared over the outbreak of the disease among the endangered species, which the Chinese regime uses for 'panda diplomacy' to win friends on the world stage.

"It's hard on giant pandas, because no companies or research institutions at home produce vaccines that are specially designed for giant pandas. In other words, we can hardly find a vaccine that can give effective protection," said professor Jin Yipeng of China Agriculture University.

Pandas are notoriously reluctant to breed which means their numbers are limited and the creatures are greatly valued as a result.