Three Brothers Haven’t Left Each Other’s Side For 15 Years
A lion, a tiger and a bear each walk into a bar.
It's an absurd premise for a joke, partially because animals don't go to bars, but also because each of their natural habitats is so far apart from the others' that all three would never be in the same place in the wild.
But at Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary (NAAS) in Locust Grove, Georgia, an American black bear, an African lion and a Bengal tiger have spent 15 years together in peace and harmony.
From left to right in the photo above, their names are Shere Khan, the tiger; Leo, the lion; and Baloo, the bear.
It's an impressive sight, especially considering how animals of different species don't always get along so well, but once you know their story, their unusual circumstances make much more sense.
It all began 15 years ago when NAAS first rescued the three cubs.
Shere Khan, Baloo and Leo bathing together shortly after their arrival at NAAS.Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary
Officials discovered the animals during a drug raid on a home in Atlanta, Georgia, where they were being held captive in the basement. They were each less than 1 year old at the time.
Below is a photo of Leo, who came to the sanctuary with an infected wound on his nose as the result of being confined to a small crate.
All three animals were scared and malnourished, and carrying internal and external parasites, but the worst of the animals by far was Baloo.
Like Leo, Baloo had outgrown his home in the basement, where his captors placed a harness around him to keep him tied up. Since they didn't loosen Baloo's harness as he got bigger, his body grew around the harness, in the same way trees sometimes grow around fences or poles.
Baloo had to have surgery to seal the deep wounds — and that was the first and only time the three have been separated, according to NAAS.
Since then, the brothers have been enjoying each other's company.
NAAS deemed their injuries too severe for them to be rehabilitated back into the wild, so they stay at the sanctuary. Since they all get along so well, they share living quarters.
They even give each other little kisses.
Most importantly, they give great comfort to each other, according to NAAS curator Allison Hedgecoth.
"All three are still equally affectionate with one another," Hedgecoth told The Dodo. She says that time hasn't changed the family dynamics much.
"Shere Khan has always been mischievous, and even though he is getting older this hasn't changed him one bit," she said.
Hedgecoth said that the trio has slowed down a bit since their youth. It makes sense since, the brothers are entering their golden years.
Thanks to the team at NAAS, these three will live out the rest of their lives far from the basement where they were held captive as cubs. For years, they've enjoyed the sun, the open air, proper nourishment and medical treatment and, most importantly, each other's company— their only source of love during those horrific early days.