PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary
WRITTEN BY: Southern Guide to Life
Locust Grove, GA – Baloo the bear, Leo the lion, and Shere Khan the tiger were seized from a drug dealer who neglected and abused them. The trio had been together since the age of two months. Their friendship had already been sealed but their fates looked grim, until a special kind of sanctuary stepped in to save them.
Smack in the middle of Georgia is Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, named for the biblical vessel that saved the worlds animals from the great flood. They care for more than 1,000 abused, neglected, and orphaned animals from domestic horses to African lions in natural habitats that stretch along a 250 acre facility that also encompasses an animal rehabilitation center and natural walking trails.
When Baloo, Leo, and Shere Khan arrived, it was Baloo that was the most in need. His former owner had placed him in a harness that was never adjusted as he grew larger. It resulted in deformities and the need for the harnesses surgical removal. Under the loving care of Noah’s Ark, Baloo recovered and for the past twelve years the three have lived together in their own special habitat.
“That hard time really made them come together as family. We never separated them. As you can see, they still live together, play together and they love each other,” Allison Hedgecoth, Noah’s Ark’s animal husbandry manager told an Atlanta news station.
In the wild, these three animals would never live together and could easily kill each other. But they have formed an inseparable bond and learned how to play, eat, and live together.
“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. When [the lion] wakes up the three of them mess around for most of the day before they settle down to some food,” Diane Smith, assistant director of Noah’s Ark, told the Telegraph in 2009.
That friendship was threatened in 2013 when new regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture required new higher fencing around enclosures such as theirs. The Sanctuary faced a difficult decision – raise nearly $500,000 within a short period of time or split up a family that had spent their lives together.
With the help of a generous community and fundraising efforts by social media outlets, such as Crowdrise.com, they were able to raise the funds needed to keep the unlikely family together.
Baloo, Leo, and Shere Khan aren’t the only unlikely friendships that have formed at Noah’s Ark. Little Anne is an American Black bear who was separated from her mother during the devastating tornadoes that tore through North Georgia in the spring of 2011. She was found alone, and frightened, in a tree by a local church group. Together with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, they found her a new home at Noah’s Ark.
Doc is a Bengal tiger who was rescued from an overcrowded breeding facility. When they first arrived, Doc and Little Anne were placed together for comfort and companionship.
“Then something strange happened,” Noah’s Ark explains on their website. “One night, before falling asleep, Anne climbed on top of Doc and began sucking on his ears, making a humming noise that soothed her right to sleep! The pair are now inseparable.”
How You Can Help
Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children and animals. In addition to caring for more than 1,000 abused, neglected, and orphaned animals, they also operate educational programs and help support children in foster care. It costs more than $33,000 a month just to feed, treat, and care for the animals. Here are ways that you can help:
Visit the Sanctuary
More than 100,000 people visit Noah’s Ark each year. Admission is free, but donations are greatly appreciated.