Chinese zoologists are studying a sheep-eating panda, trying to find out why the normally herbivorous animal has turned to meat, an official newspaper reported.

The panda was sent to the Wild Animal Research Center in southwest China's Sichuan province after she was discovered to have broken into a sheep pen and killed and eaten three sheep, the Wenhui Daily of Shanghai reported in its Monday edition, seen in Beijing Tuesday.The panda, named Jiasiqinshanmei, living in primeval forests near Emei Mountain in Sichuan, in recent years has emerged from the forests several times to kill and eat an estimated 30 sheep. The report said she tried to stay with the sheep, refusing to leave the sheep pens when discovered.

The three-paragraph report did not give any more information.

The giant panda's diet normally is exclusively bamboo, and it has developed physical features adapted for its diet, including specialized flat molars for grinding and an opposable thumb for handling bamboo stems and leaves, experts say.

In the mid-1970s, at least 138 pandas died of starvation when three species of bamboo died off in a widespread area of panda territory.

Pandas, native only to China, normally are solitary animals and shun contact with humans. In many areas, farmers have encroached on the animals' natural habitat.

Only about 1,000 pandas remain in the wild.