There was wonder and amazement among social media users when news emerged of an inseparable friendship among a bear, lion, and tiger. They shared a past that was characterized by torture, a factor that gave birth to a happy friendship that lasted more than a decade. However, fate intervened and took one of them away forever, leading to an emotional farewell.
The interesting story began in 2001 when police were conducting a drug raid on a house in Atlanta. When they reached the basement, they found three caged animal cubs. The Cubs had been subjected to deplorable conditions, were underfed, underweight and were infested with parasites. The cages were also too small for the animals, subjecting them to further abuse.
Evidence of the abuse and terrible conditions were seen in the sore injury on the lion’s nose. The baby bear has also outgrown its cage in a significant way. Measures had to be taken to restore the well-being of the Cubs, with the bear being taken for surgery to remove the harness that had stuck in his flesh.
The three animals were rescued and taken to (NAAS) Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary. Here, they received specialized medical treatment and care and recovered fully from the conditions they suffered previously. They also formed a unique and closely-knit family of three. Two of the cubs were named after characters in The Jungle Book: Baloo, the American black bear and Shere Khan, the tiger. The lion cab was named Leo. The trio came to be known as BLT, which stands for bear, lion, and tiger.
Even after they were rescued, many people were surprised that the BLT trio continued to stay together. The sanctuary supported this close relationship by offering them the same living space. This allowed the bond among the three friends to grow even stronger, making it like a family. The animals would play together, offer comfort and provide love, making them brothers born of different species.
According to the information on NAAS website, they agree that a close relationship existed among the three. “Leo, Baloo, and Shere Khan sleep, eat and play together and even seek affection from one another, rubbing and licking each other,” reads a statement on the site. The unspeakable torture they endured together formed the glue that would bind them together despite their clear differences.
NAAS also described the characters of each of the animals. Baloo was sweet-toothed and is, in so many ways, a reflection of the fictional character he was named after. Shere Khan is the most mischievous among the three, punching his two brothers at moments when they least expect it. Lastly, Leo would normally appear to be lethargic, only springing to life when it was playtime.
For a total of 15 years, the brothers enjoyed a happy life and cordial relationship at NAAS. Each of them was well into his golden years when NAAS reported devastating news in August 2016. BLT would be missing one of its beloved members. On August 11th, 15-year old Leo passed away, and a statement to that effect was put up on the NAAS Facebook page. The animal had exhibited signs of illness for a period and had been scheduled for abdominal surgery.
Unfortunately, the surgical procedure had revealed even more devastating findings. NAAS announced that their veterinarians had discovered that over 80 percent of Leo’s liver had masses that could not be operated on. It is because of this that they made the painful decision to let him go, forever.
Leo’s brothers were given a chance to bid him farewell before he died. However, staff at the sanctuary reported that the remaining two brothers did not appear to be surprised. The NAAS spokesperson said that they suspect Baloo and Shere Khan had noticed their brother’s health problems even before their caregivers did. Maybe this prepared the two friends for the heart-wrenching eventuality.
NAAS commented on this event. “Animals are rather perceptive,” they wrote. “With the amazing bond the BLT had since being rescued from a narcotic’s basement in the summer of 2001, it is probable that Khan and Baloo knew their lion brother was sick for a while now” The staff at the sanctuary also reported that they would closely monitor the behavior of the two remaining brothers, considering the tight bond that existed among the BLT family. So far, Baloo and Shere Khan are coping well with the absence of their brother.
There is no doubt that it is not only Leo’s brothers who will miss him. Human beings will also miss him a great deal. However, NAAS has decided that rather than holding a solemn ceremony, they will invite staff and guests for a celebration of life. “A wonderful time was had by all as we came together on August 27th to remember Leo, ‘the Lion of Noah’s Ark,’” read a statement from NAAS.
NAAS made sure that all those who were not able to make it to the event followed the celebration through a live broadcast on social media. During the occasion, volunteers baked cakes, and people covered a photo wall with flowers and all of Leo’s admirers flooded his memorial book with touching sentiments and emotional messages.
To commemorate Leo’s memory, a statue of a lion was placed on his grave, located next to the clubhouse where the trio would spend time together. When the surviving brothers saw the statue for the first time, they seemed to pay an emotional tribute to a family member who left too soon.
Although those who attended Leo’s Celebration of Life did not see how the surviving brothers reacted to the statue, NAAS reported that Baloo rubbed lovingly against the statue during the memorial. The outpouring of support from Leo’s fans was overwhelming. This went to show just how much the lion, and indeed the trio, had become popular among many people.
A post by the sanctuary, on their Facebook page, read “We are beyond grateful for the overwhelming support of the public during such a difficult time, and we continue to be amazed by how many lives the BLT has impacted.” It goes further to say “Leo…was truly one of a kind, and will never be forgotten!”