Leo the lion, Shere Khan the tiger and Baloo the bear were found together as cubs during a police raid of a drug baron’s home in 2001 in Atlanta where they were kept as status symbols. When the young trio moved to Noah’s Ark Animal Santuary in Locust Grove, Georgia, zookeepers decided to keep them together.
"We could have separated them, but since they came as a kind of family, the zoo decided to keep them together," Diane Smith, assistant director of Noah's Ark, told The Telegraph in 2009.
Fifteen years later, these friends still hang out at the rescue center.
"Baloo, Leo and Shere Khan eat, sleep, and play together and even seek out grooming and affection from one another, head rubbing and licking each another," according to the Noah's Ark website. "Their terrifying early months in life bonded the three together and they are truly inseparable despite their obvious differences."
Baloo, Leo and Shere Khan come in for a group hug after spending 15 years together at the Noah's Ark Sanctuary. (Photo: Noah's Ark Sanctuary/Facebook)
When the Georgia Department of Natural Resources brought the cubs to the sanctuary, they were malnourished, frightened and full of parasites.
Shere Khan the tiger was underweight and malnourished but now is the most mischievous and affectionate of the trio, alternately pouncing on and grooming his step-brothers. He was diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease in 2014 but is responding to treatment.
Leo the lion had an open, infected wound on his nose, which has healed but left a scar. Typically quiet, he is the first to grab a toy during playtime.
The three friends play in a pool together at the sanctuary. (Photo: Noah's Ark Sanctuary)
Baloo the bear required surgery from a tight harness that had never been loosened and had grown into his flesh. During his surgery, Leo and Shere Khan were very agitated and didn't calm down until he returned. The trio has been together ever since.
Although these predators — the 1,000-pound bear, 350-pound lion and 350-pound tiger — have the power to kill each other, they’re gentle giants who grew up together and treat each other as brothers.
"It is wonderful and magical to see a giant American black bear put his arm around a Bengal tiger and then to see the tiger nuzzle up to the bear like a domestic cat," Smith said.
Visitors can observe the creatures, who live in a specially designed habitat with their very own "clubhouse." Check out this video to see how well the unusual threesome get along.