(WILDLIFE/ANIMAL FRIENDS) “It’s a lion, a tiger and a bear — oh my!” said Allison Hedgecoth of Noah’s Ark, a wild-animal rescue center in Locust Grove, Georgia.
At Noah’s Ark, an unlikely trio consisting of an American black bear named Baloo, Leo the lion, and a Bengal tiger named Shere Kahn are the best of friends.
“They live together and they don’t see their differences. They don’t see their color differences,” Hedgecoth continued.
The three animals—collectively known as the “BLT”—were rescued as two-month-old cubs nearly 12 years ago from an abusive home and have been inseparable ever since. They cuddle, play ball, chase each other, and eat together daily.
“All of them had issues…Leo, the lion, had a big raw spot on his nose. Baloo, the bear, had an ingrown harness where his owners hadn’t lengthened it as he grew, so it actually grew into the skin and it had to be surgically removed,” Hedgecoth said. “They have recovered more than 100 percent.”
For years, trainers worried and expected the animals to fight, but witnessed nothing other than peace among the three. What’s more, when trainers tried to separate the trio, the animals immediately acted out.
“I think that the ordeal they went through as youngsters really bonded them together,” Hedgecoth told ABC News. “That’s all that they had. They only had each other for comfort.”
Hedgecoth says that separating the three animals now, after spending more than a decade together, would simply be cruel.
Owned and founded by by Charles and Jama Hedgecoth, the 250-acre sanctuary is believed to be the only place where you’ll find this combination of species living together.
“It’s kind of unusual because black bears and tigers would be solitary as adults,” said Rebecca Snyder, a curator at Noak’s Ark.
The three gentle giants seemingly have no comprehension of their animal differences.
“It is possible to see Baloo, who is a 1000 lb bear, Shere Khan, a 350 lb tiger and Leo, who is also 350 lbs, messing around like brothers,” said Diane Smith, assistant director of Noah’s Ark. “They are totally oblivious to the fact that in any other circumstance they would not be friends.”
Shere Khan, Baloo, and Leo have moved into a specially designed habitat where the public can now witness first-hand their touching friendship.
And while Noah’s Ark does not charge to tour the facility, the organization is asking the public for donations.
“We don’t receive any state or government funding,” Hedgecoth said. “It costs over $33,000 a month just to feed and provide medical care for our animals.”
To make a donation to Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, click here.
Watch the “BLT” and their miraculous friendship in the video below.
— Alisa Manzelli, exclusive to Global Animal