BLT: The Loving Trio

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

2D274905923598-today-BLT-140523-01a.blocks_desktop_mediumTake the largest, most aggressive predators from three different continents and throw them together in a cramped Atlanta apartment and what do you get? Mayhem? Well, not exactly. What you get exactly is a love story and a lesson in tolerance, perseverance and making life work.  Thirteen years ago, Atlanta police burst into a drug dealer’s apartment and found, Baloo, a North American brown bear, Leo, an African lion, and Shere Khan, an Asian tiger. A status symbol in the drug culture, the then-cubs were sharing a miserable life of neglect and starvation. Freed from their captor, the trio were dispatched by authorities to the Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, Georgia for R & R. But then something wonderful and telling happened. The group, who had struggled together, began to thrive together.

“They actually seek out each others affections,” animal husbandry manager Allison Hedgecoth said. “They nuzzle each other. They play together.” A bond formed by duress and cooperation to survive was stronger than any sense of  species identity. While the animals interact with the other residents of the preserve, their genuine affection for each other is out for all to see. It’s a brotherhood as real as any human institution.

The law continues to regard these creatures as mere property. Ignoring their very human-like sentiments and value to us, courts tell us that animals have only the value 2D274905923565-today-BLT-140523-05.blocks_desktop_mediumof a beast of burden or sideshow attraction. Stories like this make me wonder if they have value as teachers of humanity as well. Can mutual interest really suppress inborn aggression?  Are ways available for creatures of different colors and attitudes to work and live together not just in tolerance but in genuine harmony? Will humans ever reach the utopia found by this unlikely “family”? Are Homo sapiens really the dominant species in a moral sense?

Noah’s Ark founder, Jama Hedgecoth seems to have discovered the secret that eludes many, “I think people, they really want to be like that. They teach you how to get along. They’re definitely not the same color. They’re not the same species. They’re not even from the same country, and they love each other. They’re brothers, and they teach you how to love.”

According to their website, Noah’s Ark is “a non-profit Animal Sanctuary dedicated to bringing children and animals together with the purpose of providing unconditional love, unconditional service and a future full of hope.”  You can read about their good work here.

Future full of hope? Mission accomplished.

Source: Today

~Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

 

63 thoughts on “BLT: The Loving Trio

  1. Dredd, These animals kill other species to eat, and never their own species. (Someone’s going to call me out on the “never’). Too many homo sapiens kill for sport, even killing each other.

  2. Animal rights took a big hit in the US when animal rights activists were labeled as “terrorists”. But there is still hope for a rapid turnaround. Certainly in the US veganism is rapidly increasing. Hunting is declining. Pets are often equal to children. Animal abuse is front page news. Progress is being made. The hope is that recognition of animal rights will occur even more precipitously than recognition of marriage equality did.

  3. After reading to this point I see that the consensus seems to be if we put everybody together in a basement and starved them long enough, then took out and feed them and kept them together while other people came by an looked pointed and took pictures, the world would be a much better.

    I am very glad they saved them, but there are no greater live lessons to be learned.

  4. Great concept to have encouraged and nurtured these outstanding individuals ability to grow a primarily love based family bond. Kudos to the tender, touching abilities of our story writer Mark in placing this on a exquisite pedestal! Just like my wonderful little dogs, these creatures enable me to feel all the love I am humanly capable of feeling…..MISSION ACCOMPLISHED MARK!

  5. bettykath

    Dredd, These animals kill other species to eat, and never their own species. (Someone’s going to call me out on the “never’). Too many homo sapiens kill for sport, even killing each other.
    ====================
    Homo sapiens have the choice but refuse peace and embrace war for some reason.

    Probably the New Orleans Jazz influence: “It is forbidden to kill therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” -Voltaire

  6. I love stories about this trio. If I recall correctly, the sanctuary tried to split them up into species-specific enclosures, but they were too unhappy apart.

  7. One of our cattle dogs has made friends with this year’s crop of coyote pups. He used to be mortal enemies with coyotes. The other day my husband was on his tractor when he saw his dog trotting along behind him with the 2 pups, happy as a clam. (He’s too big to be an object of prey himself.) The trio bounded along, doing play bows, until the pups melted away into the brush.

  8. A positive story and great message. We’re members of the San Diego Zoo. I will go sometimes and sit for hours watching different animals. I always gravitate to the monkeys and apes. The only “reality” shows I watch are animal docs.

  9. Dredd

    “If they can do it so can homo sapiens.”

    I seriously doubt that. Homo sapiens have learned how to do what no other animal is capable of. Not kill for fun or even his own kind but the ability to lie for future benefit rather than just deceive for immediate gain.

    This creates constant and consistent doubt as to the veracity of everything you are told and the intentions of others and this makes peaceful coexistence impossible or highly unlikely at best.

  10. Paul Schulte

    “After reading to this point I see that the consensus seems to be if we put together in a basement and starved them long enough, then took out and feed them and kept them together while other people came by an looked pointed and took pictures, the world would be a much better.”

    After reading your comments for the past few days , it occurs to me that if we were to submit you to this treatment the world just MIGHT be a better place.
    LOL. Just kidding

    “I am very glad they saved them, but there are no greater live lessons to be learned.”

    Seriously; I think there are two things to be learned here.
    1. sentient beings; under conditions of extreme adversity are able to strip away all superficial differences and overcome.

    2. It seems clear that animals are morally superior to humans. They naturally make good choices for the benefit of all whereas we must force ourselves to do anything that isn’t immediately satisfying and/or beneficial to ourselves. (which I should point out is two levels of selfishness beyond)

  11. Male lions kill the cubs of their new mates if the cubs are from a different sperm donor. Male bears kill cubs for food. Sows are constantly having to be on the watch for attacks on their cubs by males. These are the morally superior creatures you were speaking of?

  12. What do our reactions tell us about ourselves?

    Are these animals functioning normally and naturally? What will they evolve into? If success is in the journey, these animals have none. There are many animals in zoos that are safe but not sane. Should we glean that we should all live in rubber rooms?

    What has really happened here is that these entities have been incarcerated by a human exerting complete, arbitrary control (i.e. tyranny).

    Isn’t this exactly what the ruling elite collectivists have done to free Americans? Is this the Manifesto nullifying the Constitution?

    Is this abnormality better, superior to nature? The picture does not show the controllers; the puppet masters; the dictators that sit out of the frame. There are no winners or losers just sedated bio entities without dynamics, without a raison d’être.

  13. Nick:

    Do you ever consider during your days at the zoo that perhaps as we watch our fellow creatures encaged behind bars of iron or separated from us by concrete walls and arrogantly assured of our own innate superiority and dominion over them, that they are watching right back with no such pretense and only a desire to do us nothing but good?

    If that is so, who should rightly be the zookeeper?

  14. Truly. If we have a need to lock up dangerous creatures; what creature is more deserving than we?

    Shouldn’t that make us fearful that we might be measured with the same stick as we use to measure them?

  15. Mark, When I’m watching the apes I do have those thoughts. I have spent enough time that I’ve gotten to know some of their personalities. There’s one older female ape that LOVES for women to open their purse and show her what’s in it. The vet @ the ape habitat told me that a few years ago. I thought she was busting my chops, but she wasn’t. I will tell women who walk up to the exhibit to open their purse, and the older ape will lumber up and look intently as women pull items from their purse. It is fascinating. The apes really study us. I love watching the koalas, but I don’t sense any profound thoughts, just “where’s the eucalyptus” and “time to nap.” The panda’s are the big draw but I find them pretty boring. Polar bears seem to have some depth and personality. The big cats seem to me just like house cats in personality and demeanor. It’s the kids that draw me there almost as much as the animals. Watching the pure glee.

  16. At the San Diego Zoo they used to have a male gorilla who would wave to the tour buses as they stopped. I was taking a behavior psychology class the first time I saw him and so went back to watch as the various touring cars went by. The drivers all used the same hand command to get the gorilla to wave to the bus, but he would only really wave for the female drivers. His attitude with the male drivers was that he would give a half-hearted wave.

  17. SeaWorld has a rescue team. Sea creatures are always having health problems and washing up on the San Diego coast. A sea lion pup washed up as I was walking on the beach in April. It was scared and of course people were making it worse by getting to close to the pup, putting it in more stress. I, and regular beach walkers know the drill. I stayed near the pup, asking people to stay away. I waved to a lifeguard, he acknowledged the situation, and called the SeaWorld rescue team. They got to Mission Beach within 20 minutes, carefully got the pup into their truck kennel, and took it to be nursed to health and then released. I know it’s difficult for many to see both sides of an issue. They like to see the world in the stark, good v evil, Dem v Rep, etc. My profession taught me, and my personality abides, the undeniable fact of Ying and Yang.

  18. Nick – I like SeaWorld. I like what they have done with the rebuilding, but am not a big fan of the layout of the new shows

  19. Paul, I can walk to Sea World from our house on Mission Beach. I’ve never been. When folks w/ kids come to visit I always go w/ them to the zoo. But, when they do the Sea World, Disney Land and LEGOLAND junkets, I pass. I have no objection to them, they’re just quite expensive. There was a controversy this past week. PETA was trying to put up an ad @ Lindbergh Field, telling people not to attend SeaWorld. The airport had refused. The ACLU took it to court and the airport relented on Wednesday, putting the ad up. I am not a fan of PETA and their tactics, but the ACLU got it right on this one, IMO.

  20. pete, I doubt many people who watched the doc, Blackfish, and formed their opinion on SeaWorld, have any idea that SeaWorld does these rescues out of their own pocket. I was simply providing the other side of the coin. Sue me.

  21. I did a back stage tour at SeaWorld and was very disappointed (this was in the early days of the park) to find out there were several Shamus. I was heart-broken.

  22. Blast Seaworld to hell.

    Whales and dolphins should not be kept in pens and made to perform circus tricks for our entertainment.

    How can anybody who loves this post then and the adorable lion, tiger, and bear, say it is okay to pen up a whale and teach it ‘tricks’. Damn! You’re teaching an animal who has a brain that is high functioning – YOU’RE TEACHING IT TRICKS. It is a f**king travesty.

    Don’t give me rescuing! If they want to rescue – fine. But it does NOT come with the price tag of capturing and penning up whales.

    Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. We are a despicable species.

  23. Paul S

    The orca is enduring a life sentence in a PEN. He has to JUMP in order to eat.

    Do you apologists for Seaworld love your dogs? Well here is what we are going to do with your dog…

    We are going to pen up your dog for the rest of his life. We’ll give him about 10 square feet. Forever. No dog parks. No splashing at the beach. No fetch. No naps on your bed. And if he wants to eat, he must roll over, jump through fiery hoops, and do somersaults.

  24. My dog does not like to splash at the beach and can’t fetch to save her life. And she dies if she gets on the bed.

  25. Schulte sez: “…the consensus seems to be if we put everybody together in a basement and starved them long enough, then took out and feed them and kept them together while other people came by an looked pointed and took pictures, the world would be a much better.”

    That seems to be the Repub/neocon plan for the world.

    Not sure there’s life lesson to be gleaned here? World famous Jane Goodall, whose animal studies have provided insights into human behavior, might disagree.

    BTW: Dr. Goodall has left off of chimp research and is now promoting greater awareness of the importance of plants. Something to think about as we head out to work in the garden…or go for our hikes.

  26. John asks: “Are these animals functioning normally and naturally? What will they evolve into?”

    No john, these animals are not behaving naturally, which is what makes the story so remarkable. It shows how different species are capable of compassion and empathy. Considering the duress the were under, it makes their reactions even more remarkable.

    And they will not evolve into anything. Species evolve, individuals survive.

  27. They teach elephants, apes, and other animals “tricks” @ the San Diego Zoo. We all teach our pets “tricks.” By doing so, we are making a positive connection and providing animals w/ mental and physical stimulation. Patricia McConnell, the animal behaviorist on NPR speaks often and eloquently on this subject. “Blast SeaWorld to hell” would indicate someone should have been taught some “tricks,” it might help them relate to we humans.

  28. I repeat.

    Blast Seaworld to hell.

    It is cruelty of epic proportions to pen whales in an amusement park in order to make a buck.

    And I am unable to understand why it is necessary to have elephants, apes and other animals perform tricks at the San Diego Zoo.

    Positive connection? Bah. Ridiculous, selfish, cruel nonsense.

    But then I guess it’s just another character defect of mine. I was not taught some “tricks”.

  29. Dr. Patricia McConnell PhD in animal behavior, disagrees w/ you. She has books out, a blog, and can be heard on NPR. She is very knowledgeable on this topic, you show your ignorance on this topic every time you speak. But, if past is prologue, you will bring in the backhoes and keep digging that hole.

  30. Bully Sir. Bully.

    Man’s vanity and arrogance is especially difficult for those whom we deem unworthy of rights.

    On Sun, May 25, 2014 at 11:36 AM, JONATHAN TURLEY wrote:

    > feynman commented: “Blast Seaworld to hell. Whales and dolphins should > not be kept in pens and made to perform circus tricks for our > entertainment. How can anybody who loves this post then and the adorable > lion, tiger, and bear, say it is okay to pen up a whale and t” >

  31. If you concede that we are going to imprison animals in zoos and other places like them; then I don’t object to teaching animals “tricks” as part of a play scenario to keep the animals entertained and interactive. To force that same animal to perform for money is morally reprehensible. Why is it that animals are forced to pay there own cost of care when we cage them for our own entertainment? Working to protect the future of a species is commendable. Making them perform for the privilege is not.

    On Sun, May 25, 2014 at 1:37 PM, JONATHAN TURLEY wrote:

    > feynman commented: “I repeat. Blast Seaworld to hell. It is cruelty of > epic proportions to pen whales in an amusement park in order to make a > buck. And I am unable to understand why it is necessary to have elephants, > apes and other animals perform tricks at the San ” >

  32. The animals @ the SD Zoo do not perform tricks for the guests. It’s part of keeping the animals engaged mentally and physically. Animals are like people. If allowed to simply lounge around they become, just like humans, obese, diabetic, depressed, etc. The tricks engage the animals in a positive way. I don’t see how, whether it be a zoo, SeaWorld, or your own back yard, how this is bad. But, to each their own. PETA doesn’t believe we should have ANY pets. Are you of that mind, angryman?

  33. I won’t question your reading skills; just remind you that you may have missed the following: *”If you concede that we are going to imprison animals in zoos and other places like them; then I don’t object to teaching animals “tricks” as part of a play scenario to keep the animals entertained and interactive. *To force that same animal to perform for money is morally reprehensible”

    The question of whether it is ok to keep pets is perhaps more complex than you would think.

    In an ideal world; we would not have a need to keep pets. We would be able to interact with animals whenever we wished by walking outside and we would be free to develop relationships with those animals as we wish. They would also be free to associate with us or not and so presumably we would all find friends there as we do among humans now.

    No fool am I however so I realize that this is far from an ideal world. It is very easy to say “We shouldn’t keep pets” but in truth; I do and many people do BECAUSE they desire contact with these animals but can’t or won’t put in the work to gain voluntary access to them.

    They say animals are inherently fearful of man but the truth is that when animals are not exposed to man; they have little or no fear of man. Only when they are exposed to the cruelties of Man do they become so very fearful.

    So; I understand the desire to have pets. I do believe that “adopting” a pet puts us under a serious obligation to that animal. I believe that all living creatures deserve the same respect that we give each other (those of us who bother).

    Taking an animal; then exploiting it for the money it can bring is somehow; not keeping our self-interest under control. It is…….. doing it for the wrong motive. Greed is never a good motive. Only Love is a good motive; however misguided we may actually understand it to be.

    “We are trying to ensure the continuation of the species and we have to pay for our research somehow.”

    If The Bible is your thing; you will know that God gave Man dominion over all the animals and this fact is used as an excuse for everything from medical research to stomping your own dog to death in the backyard.

    But even if we give credence to that Biblical reference; it all comes down to; “Just because we can or are allowed to; doesn’t mean at all; that we should.”

    Having a pet can be a wonderful experience for you and for the pet if their is a real relationship but that takes time and attention and time is a rare and expensive commodity these days.

    Neglect can be as bad as abuse. You see? Complex. Should we or not?

    Only as an allowance to the isolationist nature of our world; I say; it depends on the real conditions and circumstances and the motive; always the motive first.

    Could I prevaricate any more; do you suppose?

  34. If you are married and male, I can almost guarentee that your wife has taught you some tricks. I am sure that your mom and dad taught you some tricks. Your teachers taught you some tricks. Your employer taught you some tricks. You just do not want to admit that they are tricks.

    Frankly I do not want to go face to face with lions and tigers and bears, oh my! I like seeing them in the zoo. Same with Shamu.

  35. I have mixed feelings about zoos. I LOVE to see wild animals up close, but greatly dislike the old-fashioned cramped, 4 walls exhibits with the animals zoning out. I know an exotic animal trainer who has a pair of elephants he bought from a dying woman. She had these girls for years, bought them from a circus, and was distraught about their welfare. He bonded very closely with them. His previous setup (he has since moved) was in a box canyon. He would take them out of their corrals every day and let them out into the brush. They would forage and walk around all day, and he could easily keep an eye on them. They would rumble in greeting to him, roll over, and get belly rubs. It was beautiful and moving to see them interact. So, as long as the animals are in roomy enclosures, with lots of stimulation like toys or behaviors, and they are happy and content, then I love to see them. For the most part, the animals who do best in zoos are those without large ranges, or the instinct to roam. We see wolves pacing, always, but zebras are happy as long as they’re fed and in a herd.

    Although I adore killer whales, and am impressed with their interactions, I do not believe these animals are suited for close confinement. They are just too large to provide adequate room. Even the large tanks at Sea World are dwarfed by the whales they house. I’ve read their papers, and the science they provide is overrated. They did great work on figuring out calorie requirements, and it was a great opportunity to weigh them and so on, but they drive marine biologists nuts. They mix in transient whales (who eat marine mammals like sea lions) with resident whales (which eat fish). These two groups diverged long ago, and have different diets and instinctive behaviors. But they are close enough to breed, which produces very confused offspring. The diet they do feed the whales leads to tooth decay, so they have to drill out the core of their teeth when they rot, and then irrigate the holes every day. Most of the whales are on handfuls of meds every day to treat their various conditions and ailments. The groups they have evolved to live in cold water, but they’re in warm climates. In the wild, residents live in a matriarchal society. The males stay with their mamas for life, only leaving for a few hours to breed before hurrying back. Males live about 60 years which is less than females, who can live to 90. Mainly this is because when their mother dies, the males have zero social structure, and are not accepted into neighboring pods. They often die soon after. The females live with mama until they have a couple of calves, and then they “move next door” and start their own family unit. They have a complex, strong social structure, and have joyous reunions. The males, theoretically, keep their aggression in check by taking a few hours off for bachelor parties in which they go kill sea lions or dolphins for fun to blow off steam. (Sound familiar?) But at Sea World, they do not maintain a natural environment like they do for animals at the SD Wild Animal Park. They mix transients with residents, and they separate the cute calves as soon as they’re weaned, and send them to other parks (the Baby Shamu tours) severing what should be a lifelong bond with their maternal pod. Their environment, for ease of cleaning, is sterile concrete. For an animal with sonar accurate enough to find a target a few millimeters wide, it must be mind-numbingly boring.

    I could drone on and on because I’m interested in this topic. But Sea World cannot compete with the naturalized exhibits at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. They create frustrated animals, and if you read their incident report, every single whale has had aggressive interactions with their trainers.

    To exhibit whales, I would be more interested in a sea pen for whales that, for whatever reason, could not survive in the wild. That would give them access to natural sea water, live fish to catch to supplement what they’re fed, an an interesting environment.

  36. I forgot to add that trained behaviors not only alleviate boredom, they allow an animal to be moved and examined.

  37. Thanks, Nick.

    I forgot to add that resident whales HATE transients. If a transient pod gets into resident territory, the residents have been observed to chase them until they beach. They have to wait for the residents to leave before they heave themselves off and make a run for it.

    Sea World houses non related males and females, transient with resident. The males, especially, are covered with scars from the females ganging up on them. Maintenance notes often remark that they find blood in the water in the morning. That is not normal in a wild pod, where there is almost never violence within a pod.

  38. Karen – the San Deigo Zoo and its Wildlife Park do not have jumping Orca. There is nothing like being splashed by Shamu. Being peed on by a giraffe is not the same.

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