At first glance, it seems like an American black bear, a Bengal tiger, and an African lion might not have anything in common, but three individuals were victims of neglect and animal cruelty as cubs, finding solace only in each other. The lion, tiger, and bear had been owned by a drug dealer who did not properly care for them. Negligence left the animals in poor health with multiple injuries. The most egregious offense may have happened to the bear. It wore a harness that was never adjusted as it grew. Over time, it had become embedded into the bear’s skin. Finally, they were rescued.
The three were taken in by Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia. They were named Leo (lion), Baloo (bear), and Shere Kahn (tiger), though the three friends are collectively known as BLT. All of the animals were rehabilitated and given proper medical care. Flesh wounds on the cats were treated, and Baloo the bear had to undergo surgery to extract the ingrown harness.
The staff at Noah’s Ark tried to separate them due to obvious concerns that the three large predators would fight. The separation did not go well for the animals. On their own, the animals behaved poorly and were uncooperative with the staff. With no other choice remaining, BLT was reunited. The trainers cautiously waited for fights to break out, but they never did. The the demeanor of the animals improved considerably and they have been perfectly peaceful with one another.
It has been over twelve years since BLT was rescued, and the three friends spend their days playing, cuddling, and eating together in harmony. Recently, federal regulations mandated that the fences around big cats get increased from 8 to 16 feet. If this was not accomplished, BLT would have to be split up in order to adhere to the new mandates This is a considerable expense for any facility, but much more so for a nonprofit. The renovations cost $489,000, and through crowdfunding, the Sanctuary was able to raise $362,269. A commercial fencing company offered an incredible discount, allowing Noah's Ark to update the facility and keep BLT together as a family.
The sanctuary houses over 1,200 animals representing over 100 species. All of these animals have been surrendered by former owners or rescued by the Department of Natural Resources. The animals range from domesticated farm animals such as sheep and geese, to exotic animals, such as BLT. Admission to the sanctuary is free, and they rely solely on contributions to provide food, medical care, and enrichment to save animals in need.