Shere Khan the tiger — one of the remaining members of an unlikely trio of best animal friends — has died. He passed away with his closest pal nearby.
For 15 years, the friends called Noah's Ark Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia, home. The trio of creatures that made up the animal-derived acronym "BLT" — Baloo the bear, Leo the lion, and Shere Khan the tiger — were rescued from the home of a drug baron in Atlanta during a drug raid. They were so severely malnourished that the sanctuary was their only nearby chance of recovering.
"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.
Pictured in 2015, 'BLT' had a deep, loving bond. (Photo: Noah's Ark Sanctuary/Facebook)
In the years that followed, the three pals grew even closer after surviving traumatizing early years as cubs.
"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."
But as time passed and health issues arose with age, the trio became a pair in 2016 when Leo passed away due to multiple tumors in his liver. Now two years later, Shere Khan has died in the arms of his main caregiver with Baloo nearby. The feistiest of the bunch, Shere Khan was known to playfully pounce on his friends and groom them as well.
Noah's Ark announced in early December on its Facebook page that Shere Khan's health was deteriorating. He wasn't eating and drinking as much as he should and was lethargic. The veterinary team and caretakers were monitoring him around-the-clock while Baloo stayed nearby to comfort his friend.
"We have a bereavement plan in place for Baloo and will be monitoring him closely to ensure that losing his last brother doesn’t take an adverse physical toll on his health," the sanctuary wrote on Facebook. "He was with Shere Khan this morning every step of the way and will be present for his burial as well, just like he was for Leo’s burial."
Staff members are reeling from the loss of their long-time resident.
Allison Hedgecoth, animal husbandry manager for Noah's Ark, tells MNN, "I know it was the right thing to do, but I am still heartbroken and can’t imagine not seeing him every day."