In India, the private possession of endangered cats, including leopards, is prohibited Credit: Representational image

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Surprising footage of a leopard approaching a group of people and playing with them surfaced online on Thursday.

Noted as unusual behaviour from a wild animal, the video has raised concerns among wildlife experts and forest officials, with some speculating that the leopard may have been hand-reared and hence, used to the presence of humans.

The video, reportedly filmed at the Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh, shows the leopard walking up to a group of people standing on a roadside. While some people scramble to get away, one stood still as the leopard approached and tries to climb onto him, playfully. Another man is then filmed playing with the leopard in a scene that has raised many eyebrows as the video was circulated on social media.

Footage of the leopard’s strange behaviour went viral on Thursday after it was posted on Twitter by Indian Forest Service officer Parveen Kaswan.

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Footage of the playful leopard has been viewed thousands of times over on social media, where it has left many stunned. Many have criticised the group filmed playing with the animal as “foolish” and “dumb”.

In India, the private possession of endangered cats, including leopards, is prohibited.

“Not able to read behaviours of this leopard. Behaving strangely,” Parveen Kaswan, IFS, wrote on his Twitter handle while taking a jab at the behaviour of people standing around the leopard. “People are not behaving better though. Videos circulating since evening. From HP.”

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In the comments section, Kaswan added that the leopard looked like a domesticated one and may have escaped from some estate.

This theory was seconded by senior IFS officer Ramesh Pandey. “This is possible in case of hand reared animals. Needs further investigation. The trend of keeping wild animals as pet can result in such unusual recoveries or surprising sightings,” Pandey wrote, calling the trend “worrisome”.

He further clarified that keeping leopards as pets is a crime in India.

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