(TMU) — Humans can learn much from animals when it comes to accepting those who are different from us. Many different species have forged long lasting friendships that may seem unlikely but are often rooted in the primal desire to connect. Often it’s a case of orphans finding each other, or a mother who lost a child finding an orphan of another species and making it her own.
We’ve seen friendships between a bear and a wolf, an elephant and dog or sheep, a chimpanzee and tiger, a kangaroo joey and a wombat, a cat and a fox, and even a hen taking care of puppies, to name just a few. And now, the friendship between an American black bear, an African lion, and a Bengal tiger is warming the hearts of people all over the world.
Known as the BLT, Baloo the bear, Leo the lion and Shere Khan the tiger were rescued in 2001 during a police drug raid on a home in Atlanta. The trio were kept in a basement in horrendous conditions, but their lives made a 360 degree change for the better when they went to live at Noah’s Ark Animal Shelter in Georgia where the trio had their own enclosure to enjoy their lives together.
Over their 15 years together, the only time they were separated was in the early days when Baloo needed surgery to remove a harness that was never adjusted as he grew. Needless to say, BLT became a firm favorite with visitors to the sanctuary.
Lion, Tiger, Bear BFFs!10/29/14#dailylion
Sadly, Leo passed away on August 11, 2016 when veterinarians found his liver was 80% full of inoperable masses and the decision was made to end his suffering.
His friends, Baloo and Shere Khan were probably aware of Leo’s suffering long before he started showing symptoms and were by his side to say goodbye to their lifelong friend. Leo was buried by the clubhouse, their favorite chilling spot. Their keepers kept a close eye on Baloo and Shere Khan and helped them through their grief with plenty of attention and extra enrichment programs.
Shere Khan was underweight and malnourished when he was rescued, but with treatment and a healthy diet he soon regained his energy and appetite and picked up weight.
The most outgoing of the trio, Shere Khan was affectionate and loved grooming and playing with his friends. Although he was diagnosed with inter-vertebral disc disease in 2014, he responded well to treatment and enjoyed life with his pal, Baloo.
However, his condition deteriorated over time and on December 18, 2018 the decision was made to release Shere Khan from his pain after test results confirmed there was nothing else that could be done for him. He was buried next to his brother, Leo.
Noah’s Ark wrote of his passing:
“Shere Khan passed away in the arms of his main caregiver, inside his straw filled tunnel with Baloo nearby. He heard soft words of adoration whispered in his ear and felt the warmth of loving, comforting strokes on his beautiful face as he very peacefully closed his big green eyes and took his last breath.”
And so it came to be that Baloo was on his own, as he would have been in the wild, where adult male bears typically only come together with females for mating. As would be expected, there was an outpouring of concern for Baloo’s well being without his friends.
To reassure fans and followers, Noah’s Ark posted an update on Baloo’s status on their Facebook page which reads:
“Many of our followers have asked if another animal will be introduced to Baloo for companionship, and for now the answer is no. Baloo is a big, dominant male who has lived in his enclosure for over a decade. Black bears are typically solitary and always territorial, particularly the males. Baloo doesn’t appreciate the presence of other big cats or bears we have, and will even display aggressive behavior toward his animal neighbors. Serious injuries or death can occur when introducing animals to one another, and the last thing we want is for something to happen to our most precious Baloo bear.”
We wish Baloo a long, happy, and healthy life until the time comes for him to be with his best friends again.
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