By John Balson @JJBalson

MOST impalas run for their lives at the sight of a leopard but this plucky youngster seems determined to BEFRIEND one

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Videographer / Director: Greatstock
Producer: Nick Johnson
Editor: Sonia Estal, Joshua Douglas

Close encounter: the deer nestles up to the deadly predator

The bizarre interaction filmed in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, sees the baby animal nuzzling the killer cat's nose and mouth as it lazes in a clearing.

Even when the leopard starts playing a little rough, the newborn makes no attempt to leave

And even when the leopard starts playing a little rough, the newborn makes no attempt to leave - and even follows it around.

The encounter was filmed by game ranger Estiaan Houy, 31, while out on safari with British and American guests

The encounter was filmed by game ranger Estiaan Houy, 31, while out on safari with British and American guests.

The amiable interaction lasted for an hour before the leopard lazily strolled into a bush, closely followed by the impala

He said: “In all my years of being a game ranger I have never seen such an encounter, nor do I ever expect to see a repeat of it again.

“I felt amazed and honoured to see such a rare and unexplainable sighting.

The baby dear even started following the leopard around

"The impala at no stage showed any signs of distress or fear. Every time the leopard would playfully interact with the baby impala, it would return to the leopard and either sniff its face or push its head against the leopard's face.

“A few times the impala would jump away from the leopard and, true to cat form, the leopard would pull it back closer with its claws."

Houy said young leopards sometimes play with their prey due to a lack of killing experience

Houy said young leopards sometimes play with their prey due to a lack of killing experience, and believes this may explain the odd encounter.

He added: "Although this appears to be play, only the leopard was actually playing and not the impala.

"The impala rubbed faces with the leopard because it's a newborn and doesn't know any better.

"The leopard could have been waiting for the baby's mother to return and then kill her."

The bizarre interaction filmed in the Kruger National Park, South Africa

Houy, who works for Jock Safari Lodge, says the amiable interaction lasted for an hour before the leopard lazily strolled into a bush, closely followed by the impala.

William Fox, the senior project manager from INGWE Leopard Research said: “The leopard is just doing what leopards do and like many cats, it is playing with its prey. I've seen similar things before, when just like a domestic cat, which may bring a mouse home and play with i), this leopard is just playing around before the inevitable.

It is not known what happened afterwards - but sadly it is likely the friendship only lasted until dinnertime

"As much as it would be nice to think predator and prey became buddies, the instances of vegetarian leopards are non existent, so the end result is very likely to not have ended well for the Impala."

It is not known what happened afterwards - but sadly it is likely the friendship only lasted until dinnertime.