Mary Thorn of Lakeland, Florida has had her pet alligator Rambo — pictured above riding a little four-wheeler and wearing a shirt and jeans — for 11 years, since he was just four years old. At the time, Rambo and five other gators had been rescued from someone who had kept them in a cramped tank in a dark closet for their entire lives, and although Thorn tried to rehabilitate them, all of the other gators died until only Rambo was left.
At that point, Thorn decided to keep Rambo indoors where he could be given special attention, and miraculously he survived, forming a close bond with the woman who nursed him back to health. Eventually Rambo became a regular house pet who freely roams inside the house along with Thorn’s dogs, trained to do a “wriggly dance” when he needs to go to the bathroom outside. Due to the cruelty Rambo endured for the first several years of his life, however, he suffers from extreme light sensitivity.
Rambo is so docile that Thorn even takes him to schools and community events to teach people about reptiles, and the gator has even learned to keep his mouth closed tightly around children as to not accidentally hurt them.
But Thorn is in danger of losing her beloved pet, as Rambo has reached four feet in length and, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife, can no longer be kept in a residential area without 2.5 acres of space. Now she’s fighting to keep Rambo, which she says would be like losing a child.
Wildlife officials are still investigating the case, so there’s a chance they could reverse the evection demand. If the gator has to go, Thorn said she has plans to send him to Croc Encounters, a wildlife sanctuary in Tampa. Still, even in the hands of professional reptile handlers, Thorn worries that too much sunlight and too much time with other animals could be fatal.
“They’ll treat him like a normal gator, and he’ll be dead in weeks,” she said. “If he gets put in a tent with other gators, they’ll eat him. His immune system is low — other gators will go after sick gators.”
There may be some hope left. It’s possible that Rambo’s case might be grandfathered in because Thorn owned him before the 25 acre stipulation went into effect. Likewise, she’s also looking into a way to have her gator certified as a therapy animal.
FOX 13’s Alcides Segui spoke to Thorn outside of her home this week and it’s clear that woman and her gator share an incredible bond.
Let the lady keep her pet, Florida!