Born in early 2001, Baloo the American Black Bear (Ursus americanus), Leo the African Lion (Panthera leo), and Shere Khan the Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) were found in the basement of an Atlanta home by police officers during a drug raid.
At only a few months old, all three cubs were frightened, malnourished, and infected with internal and external parasites. After they were rescued , the three found a wonderful new home after the Georgia Department of Natural Resources brought them to Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.
Shere Khan the tiger was underweight, malnourished and had parasites, but thanks to medical treatment and a healthy diet, he made a full recovery. He is the least dominant of the three best friends and the most mischievous, always pouncing Baloo and Leo.
Shere Khan also seeks out affection the most and numerous times throughout the day he rubs heads and grooms his brothers, strengthening their bond. Bengal tigers are native to parts of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan and because of habitat loss and poaching, they are endangered.
Leo the lion had an open, infected wound on his nose from being cruelly confined to a small crate. Although the wound on his nose eventually healed, he still carries a scar from his abuse. He is very stoic and enjoys napping on the porch of his clubhouse.
Leo seems lazy, but he turns into a different cat during enrichment time and is always the first to grab a toy or explore a new scent. Lions are native to Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia and they have a conservation status of vulnerable because of the introduction of disease, habitat loss and hunting.
Baloo the American Black Bear was in the worst condition of the three cubs rescued, with a severely ingrown harness digging into his flesh because it was never loosened as he grew in size. The harness was so ingrown that his flesh had begun to grow over and around it, and surgical intervention was required to remove the harness and clean his deep, infected wounds.
The time Baloo was in surgery was the only period when the three brothers have ever been separated from one another, and Shere Khan and Leo became extremely agitated because of it. The two missed their brother so much that they paced and vocalized for their lost family member to return.
After his surgery, Baloo was returned to his brothers and the three have been inseparable ever since. The trio hardly ever quarrel and are unified in that they will do anything for a sweet treat.
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 other. Their terrifying early months in life bonded the three together and they are truly inseparable despite of their obvious differences.
The loyalty and friendship between these three magnificent animals is unique, beautiful and precious. Despite their differences, they are family and they all get along.
Note: since this article was originally written, Leo has passed away. He died peacefully on August 11th, 2016 after a diagnosis of liver cancer at the age of 15.
Baloo and Shere Khan are still alive and well and living happily at Noah’s Art Animal Sanctuary. The sanctuary is home to 1500 animals and over 100 species. It is located in Locust Grove, GA and tours are available to the public.
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