Leo the lion dies at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary

Leo the Lion, one of the main attractions at the Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Ga., has died.

The keeper of the Noah's Ark Facebook page wrote Thursday "During today's surgery, we discovered that over 80% of Leo's liver was full of tumors and because of this, the decision was made to let him go."

The African lion was part of an unusual trio that had lived together at Noah's Ark since they were cubs. They included Baloo the black bear (Ursus americanus) and Shere Khan, the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris).

All three were found in the basement of a drug dealer’s house during a raid in 2001. The trio were malnourished and riddled with parasites. All recovered nicely at Noah’s Ark, where they shared a habitat with each other, and remained emotionally attached.

Their wrestling matches and group siestas fascinated visitors to the non-profit refuge, where they were referred to as BLT (Bear, Lion and Tiger) and where they were as inseparable as the ingredients of a classic sandwich.

Leo (Panthera leo) did not have a mane because he had been neutered at birth, as had his colleagues.

Fans of the animal park poured out their sympathy online (there were almost 6,000 comments on the group’s Facebook page by midday Friday.

On Thursday the non-profit’s webmaster wrote “Thank you all so much for your support and your prayers, they are appreciated more than you will ever know especially during such an emotional time for all of us.”

Late last year the Georgia Secretary of State's office began investigating charges that the animal refuge had been collecting donations for a home for orphans that had closed years earlier. Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's office, said the investigation is ongoing.

Noah’s Ark founder Jama Hedgecoth said last year the charges are without merit.

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