A strange story is developing in Florida as one woman is trying to raise support to keep her 15-year-old pet alligator. Mary Thorn of Lakeland has spent the last decade raising a small alligator named “Rambo.” She is licensed with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to keep the reptile, but state regulations say that she must now turn over the alligator to officials. That is because Rambo recently went through an unexpected growth spurt, putting him just over six feet long. According to FWC, captive alligators over six feet must be kept at a residence with no less than two and a half acres. Unfortunately for Thorn, her home just was not big enough.
“Everyone will tell you that I treat that animal like a baby,” Thorn told the Orlando Sentinel. “He doesn’t do anything a normal gator does.”
That is because Thorn says she rescued Rambo and four other gators from a cramped tank where they developed sensitivity to light. At first Thorn says she left the alligators outside, but that proved to be a mistake.
“We tried treating them like gators, and one-by-one, they died,” she told the New York Daily News. “So then with Rambo, we stopped treating him like a gator. We held him and kept him inside, and he got through it.”
Now she says the 15-year-old alligator plays with her dogs and even watches television with the family. Rambo also gets lots of outdoor time, but usually dressed up in one of the outfits Thorn put on him to protect the reptile from sunshine.
FWC officials say they are still investigating the case and it is possible that they may grant Thorn special permission to keep the alligator. This is due to the fact that she acquired the alligator before the 2.5-acre rule took effect, so it could be grandfathered in. However, Thorn is still preparing for the worst case scenario and is currently looking for someone to take the alligator in. She says she is talking with wildlife sanctuaries to see if they have the space and necessary facilities to house Rambo.