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A Lion, a Bear, and a Tiger Who Were Rescued From Abusive Owners Decided to Live as a Family

Lions, tigers, and bears all have different preferences when it comes to their living situation — lions live in prides, and tigers and bears are mostly solitary. But sometimes life makes for odd couplings (or triple-ings). A trio of these animals decided to form their own little weird pack and they live together in harmony, despite belonging to different species. From the trauma they faced together when they were young, these guys generated a unique bond. One that we can all learn from. This special BLT (bear, lion, tiger), as the group is known, is a reflection of how all animals can grow to love each other, despite coming from different worlds.

Bright Side brings you the story of one of the most unique and close-knit families of the Animal Kingdom.

A sad discovery

In 2001, the Georgia State Police broke into a drug dealer’s home and stumbled upon a heartbreaking scene. In the basement of the house lay 3 terrified cubs. A bear cub, a tiger cub, and a lion cub were all malnourished, infested with parasites, and showed signs of inhumane treatment.

A black bear, Baloo, was trapped in a harness that had cut through his skin. A Bengal tiger, Shere Khan, looked near death, and Leo, an African lion, had been locked into a small box, despite having an open wound on his face. But those tragic days have come to an end.

A new home for BLT

Authorities contacted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and helped the trio move into their new home: a rescue center known as Noah’s Ark. Baloo, Shere Khan, and Leo, still fearful from the trauma they’d been through, looked to each other for comfort. After a few months of healing, the cubs began to show more confidence in each other and themselves: They could be seen grooming, cuddling, and playing with each other.

As the trio became older, the rescue center leaders sadly anticipated that they might have to separate them as they grew into adulthood. They thought this made all the sense in the world, assuming the 3 acted according to the laws of nature. But this family was too closely knit to pay attention to any of these laws. They were brothers, and there was no way, or need as it turned out, to cut their fraternal bonds.

Who Baloo, Shere Khan, and Leo grew into

Baloo, the American black bear, had suffered the most abuse as a cub and had to be operated on when he was rescued. He was separated from his friends, and when he came back, they welcomed him with licks and all kinds of roughhousing, a sign of animal affection. Baloo grew into a relaxed and confident bear who today would do absolutely anything for something sweet.

Shere Khan, the Bengal tiger, was the smallest of the 3 and also the most mischievous. He attacked Baloo and Leo during playdates but, at the same time, could also be the most loving toward the others. Shere showed his love by headbutting his brothers and snuggling with them.

Leo, the African lion, enjoyed long naps on the porch of his clubhouse. He obviously was fond of rest and also greatly enjoyed his moments of exploration, investigating new spaces, foods, smells, and toys which his caregivers offered him.

The last good-bye

The 3 brothers lived together for 15 years. Their caretakers swear that they never saw them fight or get violent with each other, not even once. After surviving such a horrific nightmare together, they rewarded each other with many, many happy days.

In 2016, Leo was diagnosed with cancer and left his siblings shortly thereafter. Shere Khan followed him in 2018 and was buried next to his brother near their clubhouse, one of his favorite spots. Baloo is the only member of this trio left in the sanctuary and is waiting until the day the 3 of them get back together.

Do you think all animals are capable of overcoming their natural instincts like Baloo, Shere Khan, and Leo did? How did you feel when reading this story? Share your thoughts in the comments!