An unusual friendship
They make an unlikely trio, but Baloo the bear, Leo the lion and the tiger have forged an unusually strong bond. Considering that they would be mortal enemies if they ever were to meet in the wild, it is stunning to see their unique and genuine friendship in these intimate pictures. Rescued eight years ago during a police drugs raid in Atlanta , Georgia , the three friends were only cubs at the time at barely two months old.
Jungle japes: Shere Khan the tiger, Leo the lion and the bear all live together in a specially-built enclosure at , in Georgia , USA
They had been kept as status symbol pets by the drug barons. Delivered to thein , the decision was made to keep the youngsters together, because of their budding rapport. ‘We could have separated them, but since they came as a kind of family, the zoo decided to keep them together,’ said Diane Smith, assistant director of . ‘To our knowledge, this is the only place where you’ll find this combination of animals together.’ Living with the zoo’s founders for the past eight years, Shere Khan, Baloo and Leo have now moved to a purpose-built habitat were the US public can now witness first hand their touching relationships.
Best friends: The three beasts have been kept together since they were rescued from drug barons when they were just two months old.
‘We didn’t have the money to move them at first,’ said Diane. ‘Now their habitat is sorted and they have been moved away from the children’s zoo areas where the public couldn’t really get a good look. ‘It is possible to see Baloo, who is a 1000lb bear, Shere Khan, a 350lb tiger and Leo, who is also 350lbs, messing around like brothers.
‘They are totally oblivious to the fact that in any other circumstance they would not be friends.’ Handled by Charles and Jama Hedgecoth, the zoo’s owners and founders, the three friendly giants appear to have have no comprehension of their animal differences. ‘Baloo and Shere Khan are very close,’ says Diane.
‘That is because they rise early, and as Leo is a lion, he likes to spend most of the day sleeping. ‘It is wonderful and magical to see a giantput his arm around a Bengal and then to see the tiger nuzzle up to the bear like a domestic cat. ‘When Leo wakes up the three of them mess around for most of the day before they settle down to some food.’
Larking about: Noah’s Ark owner Charles Hedgecoth enjoys a visit with Baloo and Shere Khan
Surprisingly for three apex predators with the power to kill with a single bite or swipe of their paw, they are very relaxed around each other. ‘They eat, sleep and play together,’ said Jama. ‘As they treat each other as siblings they will lie on top of each other for heat and simply for affection. ‘At the moment they are getting used to their new habitat. ‘Shere Khan is being quite reticent about the move, but Baloo, the bear is very good at leading him on and making him feel comfortable and safe.’ Explaining that the three ‘brothers’ have always seemed to share a unique bond, Charles said: ‘Noah’s Ark is their home and they could not possibly be separated from each other. ‘You just have to remember who you’re dealing with when you are with them though. ‘It’s when you forget that these fellows are that you get yourself in trouble.’ The trio’s new habitat cost an estimated 15,000 and had to be constructed carefully, in order to accommodate its occupants. Jama said: ‘The clubhouse had to be very sturdy for the guys, because they all sleep in it together,’ She added: ‘We had to include a creek, because the tiger and the bear both like to be in water.’
Close: The animals treat each other as siblings and even lie on top of each other to share warmth and affection
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