At Noah’s Ark, a wild-animal rescue center in Georgia, the “BLT” are an unlikely trio that even “Oz’s” Dorothy would find hard to fear.
“It’s a lion, a tiger and a bear — oh my!” said Allison Hedgecoth of Noah’s Ark. “They live together and they don’t see their differences. They don’t see their color differences.”
In a small pen, Baloo (an American black bear), Leo (the lion) and Shere Kahn (a Bengal tiger) cuddle, play ball, chase each other around, eat cookies daily and seem to have forged a friendship for life.
“It’s kind of unusual because black bears and tigers would be solitary as adults,” said Rebecca Snyder, a curator of animals at Atlanta’s zoo.
The three predators were rescued as cubs 12 years ago from drug dealers who’d abused and neglected them.
“All of them had issues,” Hedgecoth said. “Leo, the lion, had a big raw spot on his nose. Baloo, the bear, had an ingrown harness where his owners hadn’t lengthened it as he grew, so it actually grew into the skin and it had to be surgically removed. … They have recovered more than 100 percent.”
But when trainers tried to separate the animals, they acted out. For years, trainers said they worried and waited for fights but had witnessed nothing but peace among the three.
Hedgecoth said she didn’t know how the trio had managed to get along together so well and for so long.
“I think that the ordeal they went through as youngsters really bonded them together,” she told ABC News. “That’s all that they had. They only had each other for comfort.”
She said separating them now, after more than a decade together, would be “cruel.”
“There definitely is something special going on between the three of them,” she said. “That is definitely a lesson.”