Leo, the lion; Baloo the bear; and Shere Khan the tiger are a rare trio who have formed a lifelong bond from the trauma they experienced together.
In the wild, these are three normally opposing male predators, yet against all odds, they are the best of friends.
The trio was found in 2001 when a drug dealer’s house got raided by the police in Atlanta, Georgia.
When the police searched the basement, they found three frightened and malnourished cubs that were infected with parasites.
Baloo was wearing a harness that was so tight that it had cut into his skin, Leo had a cut across his face and had been shoved into a tiny cage, and Shere Khan was dangerously malnourished.
It was a heartbreaking situation; the three were only cubs and had already suffered so much.
Once they’d been discovered, they were immediately rescued and brought to Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in the state of Georgia (US).
Unfortunately, the three cubs had been through too much to ever be able to return to the wild.
They were very happy to enjoy the vast grounds of the sanctuary and to receive plenty of love and care from the dedicated staff.
“When they were first brought to the sanctuary, Baloo, Shere Khan, and Leo were injured, frightened, and clinging to one another for comfort,” said Allison Hedgecoth, the sanctuary’s curator.
As they got more comfortable, they cuddled, played together, and groomed each other.
This behavior didn’t seem unusual; however, what was surprising was their enduring friendship.
She explained that sometimes young animals form bonds with members from another species, but they typically grow apart as they grow older.
It was clear from the beginning that the three had been bonded by their experience.
They sought comfort from each other when they were worried and showered each other in love by playing together and grooming each other.
They spent 15 happy years together; playing, cuddling, teasing each other and sleeping together.
The horrors of their youth faded from their minds as they made new, happy, loving memories together.
In 2016 and 2018, Leo and Shere Khan sadly passed away. Baloo was there for them in their final days and was at both of their burials.
Everyone at the sanctuary was heartbroken, but they know they did everything they could to give them a wonderful life.
The three friends show us that family doesn’t always mean blood, and that even our darkest moments can one day be replaced by love and light.