Three animals went viral last year after the story of their friendship surfaced the net. The lion, bear, and tiger had shared a tortured past from infancy and through it, they became inseparable friends.
The three brothers spent 15 years together at the Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary. However, in August 2016, the sanctuary revealed that one of the trio had sadly died.
Leo the Lion
The sanctuary released a statement on Facebook, stating that on August 11, they said goodbye to “our beloved Leo.” Prior to his death, Leo had been severely ill and was scheduled for “exploratory abdominal surgery.”
The Tragic Discovery
Unfortunately, the operation revealed the worst. “During the procedure, our veterinarians discovered that over 80% of Leo’s liver was full of inoperable masses.”
They decided to let Leo go. However, before he passed, his brothers were allowed to say one final farewell. According to staff at the sanctuary, Leo’s death wouldn’t have come as a surprise to them as they seemed to be conscious of his health problems before the carers!
The staff added that the surviving brothers are “perceptive” and that they “knew their lion brother was ill long before Leo began displaying outward symptoms.
Since the bond between all three animals was so close, the sanctuary staff are closely monitoring the brothers, but have said they are coping “remarkably well.
The Celebration of Life
Leo will also be missed by humans and, so, the sanctuary staff organized a ‘celebration of life’ to remember him by.
The entire event was broadcast on social media, which was a real comfort for people who couldn’t make it. Volunteers baked cakes, a photo wall was adorned with images and flowers and everyone filled Leo’s memorial book with touching messages.
Commemorating Leo’s Life
To further commemorate his memory, a lion statue was placed on his grave next to the clubhouse where the trio would spend their time together.
The Lion Statue
The two surviving brothers then paid a heart-wrenching tribute to Leo the lion when they first saw the lion statue for the first time.
Guests watched as the two brothers investigated the statue and rubbed themselves against it, showing love for their dearly departed brother.
The touching story of the trio began 16 years ago when police carried out a drug raid on a house in Atlanta and searched the entire house.
Upon searching the house, the officers entered the basement and found the three animals caged up and kept in poor conditions.
Underweight and Underfed
The three of them were underweight, underfed and infested with parasites. In addition to that, the animals had suffered traumatic abuse in their cages.
A Sore Injury
The lion was found with a sore-looking injury on his nose. The poor baby animal had been kept in a cage so small that the bars were digging into his snout.
The Cruel Tight Restrains
Meanwhile, the bear had outgrown his restraints completely so the harness attached to him had to be surgically removed from his flesh. Only someone evil could have allowed the poor creature to live in such a state.
A New Beginning
After the animals were rescued, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources took the trio to Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary where they received immediate medical attention. Most importantly, they were kept together.
A New Home
The three brothers soon made a full recovery at their new home and formed a happy family unit. Two of the brothers were named after characters from The Jungle Book. Baloo, the American black bear, and Shere Khan, the Bengal tiger.
Meanwhile, the African lion cub, maneless due to an early neutering operation, was named Leo. The trio were nicknamed the BLT: bear, lion and tiger.
Surprisingly enough, even after they were rescued the BLT preferred staying together and the sanctuary allowed them to share the same living space. They played, ate and napped together like a proper family!
For sanctuary staffers, the hardest part of watching over different species in the same enclosure is making sure that all their needs are met simultaneously. That includes their nutritional, medical and behavioral requirements. Baloo, she explained, is the dominant, confident and most relaxed one in the group. Leo can sometimes be distant, but is always aware of his surroundings. Shere Khan is curious and always wants to play.
Still, these three predators “live together, sleep together and even eat together as a family,” Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary explains on its Facebook page. They’re also often photographed cuddling together, especially since Shere Khan is so affectionate, according to the sanctuary.
Not So Lonely Anymore
Although Bengal tigers (considered an endangered species) typically live alone in the wild, Shere Khan often rubs against and grooms Baloo and Leo. Luckily, they never really seem to mind.
Room For Everyone
BLT aren’t the only mismatched orphans that have come into NAAS’s care. The sanctuary, which cares for over 1,500 animals and runs on donations, once took in a young male tiger and female bear that were raised together and kept them in the same habitat, Hedgecoth told BBC.
However, once the tiger and bear grew to sexual maturity, they stopped spending time together and the sanctuary had to separate the two and group them with their own species.
Baloo, Leo and Shere Khan’s bond is different. “Their individual personalities as well as their group dynamic has not changed much throughout their 15 years together,”
Although the majority of visitors are impressed, it has became the norm for natives to have such a trio at their zoo. Clearly, it is a sight to be seen, but a strict location has played a critical role since they cannot be experienced by other people from other states.
More To Be Seen
There are several examples of such kind of friendship. Although, throughout the years, the TLB is one of the most prominent. Certainly, one might argue that it is a coincidence, but in reality, all of the animals stood the test of time.
This unlikely trio of male predators have been best friends ever since they were rescued as cubs from a drug dealer’s house in Atlanta, Georgia in 2001. All of them had a strong reason to live, but alone the scenario could have ended up in a completely different manner.
In Search Of Love
They were already seeking out one another for comfort and displayed affection by snuggling, grooming and playing with one another. Indeed, a marvel to experience in person.
Their initial bond wasn’t unusual to carers though; what surprised them was their enduring, 15-year friendship.
In Good Hands
According to the website, the sanctuary spends more than $30,000 monthly to give food and medical care for the furry residents.
Free of Charge
The sanctuary charges nothing for admission, but does accept donations. Noah’s Ark often posts videos of ‘The BLT’ on Facebook.
The three creatures are among the most popular animals at the sanctuary. Noah’s Ark Sanctuary said: “Baloo, Leo and Shere Khan eat, sleep, and play together and even seek out grooming and affection from one another, head rubbing and licking each another.
Not Even A Minute Alone
The only time the three were separated was during surgery on Baloo to cut him out of the harness his former captors had placed him in.
Shere Khan the tiger and Leo the lion became extremely agitated because of it, pacing and vocalizing for the lost member of their family to return.
After his surgery, Baloo was returned to his brothers and the three have been together ever since, with hardly a quarrel between them.