Known as “The BLT” – Baloo the American black bear, Leo the lion and Shere Khan the Bengal tiger have been living together in an enclosure at an animal shelter for the last 15 years.
The trio was found in 2001 when a ᴅʀᴜɢ ᴅᴇᴀʟᴇʀ’s house got ʀᴀɪᴅᴇᴅ by the ᴘᴏʟɪᴄᴇ in Atlanta, Georgia. When the ᴘᴏʟɪᴄᴇ searched the basement, they found three fʀɪɢʜᴛᴇɴᴇᴅ and ᴍᴀʟɴᴏᴜʀɪsʜᴇᴅ cubs that were ɪɴfᴇᴄᴛed with parasites.
Baloo, an American black bear, was wearing a harness that he outgrew so much that it had become ᴇᴍʙᴇᴅᴅᴇᴅ into his flesh. Shere Khan, a Bengal tiger, was extremely underweight. Leo, an African lion, was stuffed inside a small crate and sᴜffᴇʀed an open and ɪɴfᴇᴄᴛed ᴡᴏᴜɴᴅ on his face.
The DNR took the three sᴄᴀʀᴇᴅ animals to their new 250-acre home at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary (NAAS), a nonprofit animal ʀᴇsᴄᴜᴇ in Locust Grove, Georgia. Since the cubs’ living conditions were such a ᴅᴀᴍᴀɢing and ᴛʀᴀᴜᴍᴀᴛɪᴄ experience, the ʀᴇsᴄᴜᴇrs thought it was best to bring the cubs into the sanctuary instead of releasing them back into the wild.
When they were first bʀᴏᴜɢʜt to the sanctuary, Baloo, Shere Khan, and Leo were ɪɴjᴜʀᴇᴅ, fʀɪɢʜᴛᴇɴᴇᴅ, and clinging to one another for comfort.
As they got more comfortable, they ᴄᴜᴅᴅʟᴇd, played together, and groomed each other. This behavior wasn’t ᴜɴᴜsᴜᴀʟ to Allison Hedgecoth, the sanctuary’s curator; however, what surprised her was their enduring friendship. She explained that sometimes animals form bonds with members from another species, but they typically grow apart as they grow older.
The trio never left each other’s sides, the sanctuary decided to keep them together. Leo, Baloo, and Shere Khan ate food, slept, played, and lived together in the same haʙɪᴛat for 15 years.
Even though they live in a three-acre enclosure, they’re usually within 100 feet of each other. That’s proof that they’re not just coexisting or cohaʙɪᴛing, they actually do enjoy each other’s company.
Sᴀᴅʟʏ, Leo’s health began ᴅᴇᴛᴇʀɪᴏʀᴀᴛɪɴɢ this summer and exploratory sᴜʀɢᴇʀʏ was planned.
“During the procedure, our ᴠᴇᴛᴇʀɪɴᴀʀɪᴀɴs discovered that over 80% of Leo’s liver was full of inopeʀᴀʙle masses and beᴄᴀᴜsᴇ of this, the heart ᴡʀᴇɴᴄʜing decision was made to let him go,” a Noah’s Ark official wrote on August 11, 2016.
Shere Khan and Baloo were given the opportunity to say their final goodbyes to their best buddy.
“It is highly likely that Baloo and Shere Khan knew their lion brother was terminally ɪʟʟ long before Leo began dispʟᴀʏɪɴɢ outward sʏᴍᴘᴛᴏᴍs,” the Noah’s Ark spokesperson explained on Facebook.
The ʀᴇsᴄᴜᴇ also held a special celebration of life ceremony in honor of the gentle lion.
Leo was ʙᴜʀɪᴇᴅ by the clubhouse where the three “brothers” spent time lounging around and a special lion statue marks his final resting place.
In 2018, Shere Khan also ᴘᴀssᴇᴅ ᴀᴡᴀʏ, everyone at the sanctuary was heartʙʀᴏᴋᴇn, but they know they did everything they could to give them a wonderful life. They are also providing Baloo the support he needs and making sure that he knows he’s not alone.