Ever heard of a lion, tiger and bear living together as a family unit? Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Georgia welcomed in the BLT (bear, lion, tiger) trio and provided them with a nurturing home over their lifetime after suffering abuse at the hands of human captors.
While it was heartwarming to see Baloo (black bear), Leo (African lion) and Shere Khan (Bengal tiger) live in harmony on a 3-acre plot of land at Noah’s Ark, they endured horrific animal abuse prior to arriving there and due to their upbringing in captivity, they were unable to live a natural life in the wild as God intended.
The unlikely trio of apex predators were discovered together as cubs in horrific circumstances. Found in the home of an Atlanta-area drug dealer, all three were abused and neglected, and they sought each other out for comfort. Leo suffered from an open wound on his nose. Shere Kahn was severely underweight. Baloo, had the most extensive injury, requiring surgery to be released from a too-small harness he was forced to wear, his flesh grew over the harness. The trio’s bond was solidified while Baloo was in surgery and his big cat brothers became agitated in his absence. Once rehomed at the 250-acre facility, Noah’s Ark, the three found sanctuary and freedom. Surprisingly, even as they reached sexual maturity, they remained a deeply bounded adoptive family.
The Exotic Pet Epidemic
It’s heartbreaking to hear about wild and exotic animals being kept as pets. According to PETA, caged and domestic life for an animal meant to roam nature freely is cruel and often leads to the early death of the animal.
Beyond the concerns for animal well-being, there is also a public safety concern. For example, in Texas, it is easier to own a tiger than it is to own a dog who has been labeled as “dangerous.” In Kansas, a tiger was discovered who lived in a flimsy chain-link enclosure, just down the road from a daycare facility. In Ohio, an exotic pet owner let all his animals loose in the community resulting in the forced shooting of over 10 tigers and other exotic animals.
Tigers are both an endangered animal (with only an estimated 3,200 living in the wild) and a coveted exotic pet. It’s believed that there are more tigers living in captivity in Texas than in all of the wild. Texas’ warm weather, lawless-cowboy attitude, ample land and proximity to the Mexican border has resulted in a deeply concerning animal welfare situation.
The role of Animal Sanctuaries
Given the volume of exotic animals who require liberation from their captivity and their inability to return to the wild if brought up in captivity, animal sanctuaries like Noah’s Ark play a pivotal role in offering the best possible life to rescued exotic animals. While zoos may be a part of the captivity problem, sanctuaries exist first and foremost to give the animals the space needed to thrive. Many zoos may self-label themselves as sanctuaries in an attempt to attract customers and ticket sales. However, accreditation from the Global Federation of Animal Studies is considered the gold standard for identifying the best sanctuaries to support.
Adopt, don’t shop
Shelters across America are overflowing with loving domestic animals seeking homes. One way these shelters are relieved from their overcrowding is through the support of local animal rescue groups. If you are considering bringing a pet into your home, please avoid buying a purebred and certainly avoid the acquisition of exotic pets. Instead, reach out to your local shelter or rescue organization to save the life of a loving animal who will thrive inside a home environment. Check out Petfinder for a comprehensive list of all the rescue animals in your city seeking out their fur-ever home.
A full life for “BLT” at Noah’s Ark
Leo, Baloo and Shere Kahn were rescued from their abuse in 2001, allowed to thrive at Noah’s Ark and redefine the way the public understood the bonding capacity of wild animals. They were given a chance to live a full life, with Leo passing away in 2017 and Shere Kahn in January 2019 (both living beyond their typical life expectancy). Although it’s tragic that visitors can no longer share in the joy of seeing this adoptive family share affection with each other, it’s beautiful that they were given a full, protected and peaceful life together.