Known collectively as the BLT, Baloo the bear, Leo the lion and Shere Khan the tiger have forged an unusually strong bond and are the only bear lion and tiger in the world who live in the same enclosure.
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 13-years years ago during a police drugs raid in Atlanta, Georgia, the little family were only cubs at the time at barely two months old.
Best of friends: Leo, Baloo and Shere Khan nuzzle up together at their enclosure inside the Noah’s Ark Sanctuary in Georgia
They had been kept as status symbol pets by the drug barons.
Delivered to the Noah’s Ark Animal Rescue Centre in Locust Grove, Georgia, 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 Noah’s Ark.
‘To our knowledge, this is the only place where you’ll find this combination of animals together.’
The only time they have ever been separated is when Baloo needed an operation to remove a harness that had been left around one of his paws.
Unique sight: The three apex predators are the only lion, bear and tiger that live together in the entire world
Rescued to live together: The three friends were discovered at the age of two months after a police raid on a drug dealer 13-years-ago
Bond: The three brothers spend their days at Noah’s Ark Animal Rescue Centre in Locust Grove, Georgia
It had become infected and during his surgery, Leo and Shere Khan became extremely agitated as they waited the return of their buddy.
Living with the zoo’s founders for more than a decade, Shere Khan, Baloo and Leo live in a high-tech habitat were the public can now witness first hand their touching friendship.
‘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.
Say cheese: Leo, Baloo and Shere Khan pose up for a family portrait in the morning sun
‘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.
Youngsters: Thirteen years ago Baloo, Leo and Shere Khan were just cubs and did not know that nature never intended them to meet or be friends
What is it? Shere Khan and Baloo look very confused by the blue ball in their pen, while Leo seems totally uninterested
‘It is wonderful and magical to see a giant American Black Bear put 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.’
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 wild animals 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.’