Famous tiger and bear say goodbye to their beloved lion 'brother' after 15 years of friendship

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Lion, Tiger, Bear are Inseparable After Rescue from Drug Dealer's Basement

Leo the lion, the big cat who stole hearts around the world, has sadly passed away.

A representative for Noah's Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia, took to Facebook recently to share the devastating news.

SEE ALSO: First documented identical twin puppies born in South Africa

Leo was a part of a famous trio of unlikely animal friends, known as the BLT. Baloo the bear, Leo the lion and Shere Khan the tiger became best friends after they were rescued as cubs from a drug dealer's house in 2001.

The animals had been living in deplorable conditions and were found clinging to each other for comfort.

Much to the surprise of rescuers, the group remained inseparable for 15 years, even sharing an enclosure.

Sadly, Leo's health began deteriorating this summer and exploratory surgery was planned.

"During the procedure, our veterinarians discovered that over 80% of Leo's liver was full of inoperable masses and because of this, the heart wrenching decision was made to let him go," a Noah's Ark official wrote on August 11.

Shere Khan and Baloo were given the opportunity to say their final goodbyes to their best buddy.

"It is highly likely that Baloo and Shere Khan knew their lion brother was terminally ill long before Leo began displaying outward symptoms," the Noah's Ark spokesperson explained on Facebook.

The rescue also held a special celebration of life ceremony in honor of the gentle lion.

Leo was buried by the clubhouse where the three "brothers" spent time lounging around and a special lion statue marks his final resting place.

These sweet friends will always be in our hearts:

Related: Also see these unlikely animal friends:

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Shere Khan the tiger, Leo the lion and Baloo the bear play outside at the Noah Ark Rehabilitation Centre in LOCUST GROVE, GA. Known as the BLT, or Bear, Lion and Tiger, these most unusual and unlikely animal friends are having to go on a diet after being spoilt too much. For not only do Baloo the bear, Leo the Lion, and Shere Khan the tiger have an unnatural bond, they also have a remarkable appetite too. Devouring almost 100 pounds worth of meat and vegetables a week between them, the rescued big beasts had developed something of an obesity problem. Staff at Noah's Ark Animal Rehabilitation Centre in the state of LOCUST GROVE, GA, decided to stop indulging their favoured guests and to put them on a diet after they each gained 100lbs. (Photo by Barcroft USA / Getty Images)
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