Baloo the bear, Leo the lion and Shere Khan the tiger have been friends since 2001.
The three male predators have been a tight knit crew since they were rescued as cubs from a drug dealer’s house in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2001.
“The BLT (bear, lion, tiger ― as they are known) exhibited signs of being a bonded trio from the moment we saw them when they arrived at Noah’s Ark,” curator at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, Allison Hedgecoth, shared.
“They were already seeking out one another for comfort and displayed affection by snuggling, grooming and playing with one another,” she revealed to the Huff Post.
And while their initial bond was not uncommon to Hedgecoth, what shocked her was their 15-year friendship.
“Before they reach sexual maturity, a lot of times animals will form unique bonds with members of other species,” she shared, explaining how as animals grow older, they grow apart. “What was surprising is how they kept that bond, that family unit well into adulthood.”
The animals were only a few months old when police discovered them 15 years ago during a raid in the basement of a drug dealer’s home, according to the sanctuary where the three friends now live.
“When they were first brought to the sanctuary, Baloo, Shere Khan and Leo were injured, frightened and clinging to one another for comfort,” Hedgecoth shared.
The African lion, Leo, had been inside a small crate and suffered from an open, infected wound on his nose, while Baloo, an American black bear, was found wearing a harness he had outgrown so much, it was embedded into his flesh — which had grown over and around it. And the bengal tiger, Shere Khan, was severely underweight.
Each of the cubs were infected with parasite, malnourished and terrified when the Georgia Department of Natural Resources brought them a 250-acre nonprofit animal rescue in Locust Grove, Georgia, Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.
Rescuers decided to not release them back into the wild and keep them at the sanctuary instead as their living conditions had left them so damaged.
But the silver lining? Their friendship was so strong that the sanctuary decided to keep all three in the same habitat.
“Even though they live in a three-acre enclosure, they’re usually within 100 feet of each other,” Hedgecoth shared. “That’s proof that they’re not just coexisting or cohabiting, they actually do enjoy each other’s company.”
The most difficult part of watching over various species in the same enclosure for sanctuary staffers is ensuring that all their needs are met simultaneously, Hedgecloth revealed. All which includes their nutritional, medical and behavioral requirements.
Baloo, for instance, is the dominant, confident and most relaxed one in the group while Leo can sometimes be distant but aware of his surroundings. And Shere Khan? He is very curious and always wants to play.
And yet, the three predators “live together, sleep together and even eat together as a family,” according to Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.
In addition, they are often photographed cuddling together especially as Shere Khan is so affectionate.
And while typically in the wild, Bengal tigers live alone in the wild, Shere Khan often rubs against and grooms Baloo and Leo.
Thankfully, they let it happen without too much fuss.
“Their individual personalities as well as their group dynamic has not changed much throughout their 15 years together,” Hedgecoth shared.
It seems their bond – which has not only lasted through dark times – is also a cornerstone amidst their happy days at the sanctuary.
Leo has since passed away but their friendship will live on in our hearts.