By Rishma Dosani
It may sound like the start of a joke but a bear, a lion and a tiger have formed an unusually strong bond, and even share the same enclosure at a zoo in America.
Leo the lion, Baloo the bear and Shere Khan the tiger were taken to the Noah's Ark Animal Rescue Centre in Georgia, US, in 2001, after being found by police officers during a drug raid at an Atlanta home, and have been together ever since.
When they arrived at the shelter at just a few months old, all three cubs were frightened, malnourished, and infected with parasites, but staff at the centre gave them the treatment and attention each animal needed to fully develop. It wasn't long before the trio was nicknamed the 'BLT' by zookeepers.
The only time the unconventional family has ever been separated was when Baloo underwent an operation to remove a harness around his paw, and even then his 'brothers' were agitated and nervously awaiting his return.
The public can now witness their touching friendship first hand in their own enclosure at the zoo, which cost more than $25,000 to build.
Diane Smith, assistant director of Noah's Ark, told the Daily Mail: 'We could have separated them, but since they came as a kind of family, the zoo decided to keep them together.
'We didn't have the money to move them at first.
'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.'
Baloo and Shere Khan are quite close, spending much of the day playing or grooming with each other while Leo spends most of his time asleep.
The tiger is by far the most mischievous of the three, always pouncing on the other two and playing with them.
Their close relationship has surprised zoo keepers, as each animal could kill the other with a single swipe of their paw.
'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,' Diane added.
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'When Leo wakes up the three of them mess around for most of the day before they settle down to some food.'
Their terrifying early months in life have caused an unusual but strong bond between the bear, lion and tiger, and despite their obvious differences, they are truly inseparable.