Rambo, a 125-pound Florida alligator, wears clothes and rides a motorcycle. The six-foot-long reptile has been living with Lakeland-resident Mary Thorn for the last 11 years and now wildlife authorities say he has to go.
Thorn has a license for the exotic pet, but Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials say that an alligator Rambo’s size must have 2.5 acres of land. While Thorn is short of the land required, she contends that doesn’t matter, as the Florida alligator is sensitive to sunlight and doesn’t spend a lot of time outdoors.
“Everyone will tell you that I treat that animal like a baby,” she told the Orlando Sentinel. “He doesn’t do anything a normal gator does.”
When Rambo came to live with Thorn, he was 4-years-old. Previously, he was kept in a dark closet in a cage with several other alligators.
When the gators first came to Thorn, she tried helping all of them, but many did not make it.
“We tried treating them like gators, and one-by-one, they died. So then with Rambo, we stopped treating him like a gator. We held him and kept him inside, and he got through it.”
Keeping alligators caged up for years is not all that uncommon. In a related Inquisitr report, a six-foot American Alligator was rescued by an appliance repairman after living in a dark, damp basement for 26 years.
In an effort to help Thorn’s campaign to keep Rambo, Privileged Critters Animal Hospital wrote a letter to the FWC explaining how alligators can develop light sensitivity when raised in a dark environment. They agree with Thorn’s argument that the reptile should not be “left outside for any length of time.”
Thorn says 15-year-old Rambo is somewhat of a celebrity in the Lakeland area. He visits elementary schools, charity events, and conventions to educate others about reptiles. Thorn has spent considerable time training the animal not to bite, scratch, head butt, or swat.
“He loves kids and when kids come around he shuts his mouth really tight so fingers can’t go in his mouth,” Thorn said.
She has been given special permission to allow Rambo to interact with the public without having to tape his snout shut. The Florida alligator is also potty trained and can understand sign language.
According to Gary Morse, a spokesperson for the FWC, the case is still under investigation, and no conclusions have been made as of yet. Rambo came to live with Thorn before the 2.5-acre requirement went into effect, so there is a possibility the rule will not be enforced.
This would mean Rambo would be allowed to stay, but Morse declined to speculate on the final decision. However, until then, Thorn will need to find Rambo a temporary home.
Many exotic animal rescues and other groups do not have the proper license to house the reptile, and Thorn is running out of options. A reptile encounter attraction in Tampa has offered to take Rambo in, but Thorn is concerned about his reaction to being moved and the increased sun exposure while there.
“I know when he goes there he’s going to be really afraid and he’s probably going to pass away from stress,” Thorn said.
Thorn also says the gator is skittish around other reptiles due to his experience being caged up in the early years of his life.
While wildlife authorities decide what to do, Thorn is exploring several alternative options to keep her exotic pet. One possibility is getting Rambo certified as a therapy animal.
Friends and fans of Rambo have also flooded the FWC with calls and letters asking that he be permitted to remain at home.
“Without him, I don’t feel like even wanting to go on,” Thorn said. “Everybody is taking it pretty hard because they know how much I love the gator.”
Florida alligator Rambo watches TV, has his own bedroom, and spends much of his time indoors interacting with other family members, including several household dogs. When he does go outside, Rambo is dressed in special clothes to prevent his skin from burning. Thorn says Rambo waits by the door whenever she is gone and tends to get anxious if she is away from home too long.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]