Leopard ‘plays’ with motorists in Himachal, raises concern

Shimla

Videos of a well-built leopard 'playing' with motorists in Himachal’s Tirthan Valley in interiors of Kullu district has raised concern among wildlife experts. The one-and-half-year leopard was seen playfully interacting with motorists time and again and its high comfort level amid the presence of 15-20 people, busy in shooting it on their mobiles, indicates the wild cat was initially hand-reared, a wildlife official told IANS.

The incident of his affinity with passersby, largely local vi­llagers, was reported on the Banjar-Kullu road on Th­u­rsday. The official, reque­s­t­ing anonymity, said the unnatural playful instincts of th­is leopard, normally shy and rarely encountered in the daylight, indicate the animal is either surviving on scavenging or on the humans.

"The wild cat with such a high level of human imprinting is not natural. It must be kept in a rescue and rehabilitation centre to understand its behaviour. Its presence in the wild is a threat to the animal itself," he said.

"The leopard can be either killed by another predator or by stray dogs," he said, "even the behaviour of the humans playing with the leopard was worrisome". The Tirthan Valley, where the leopard was videographed, is part of the Great Himalayan National Park — a Unesco World Heritage site. Elusive, shy leopards avoid encountering humans, despite depending on their domestic animals for food and in fact can live close to their habitations, but in such a surreptitious way that most people do not even know they are near, leave alone getting harmed, say experts.

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