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Florida Woman Hopes State Will Let Her Keep Her Gator Companion, Rambo

Photo by Crystal Chavez
Photo by Crystal Chavez

Rambo’s future is in limbo. Rambo is a motorcycle-riding, leather-wearing alligator who lives with Mary Thorn in Lakeland. Thorn and Rambo have been inseparable for 11 years. But as 90.7’s Crystal Chavez reports, Thorn’s nervously waiting for word from the state about whether she can keep her companion.

Mary Thorn wears a cowboy hat and stands next to a black motorbike with a small gator on it, clawed hands up on the handles. Rambo sports a black leather jacket, even his tail has a leather cover that says “Country Gator.” Thorn makes all of his clothes.

“I embroider them so when he’s out in public people will know his name and stuff like that [and] to protect him from the sun. Some people say it’s cruel but to me it's protecting him, my goal is to protect this animal,” said Thorn.

One reason she makes his clothes is because you just can’t go out and buy clothes for gators but there’s a medical reason, too. Thorn says Rambo has light sensitivity and too much sun exposure makes his scales dry out and crack off. She thinks it’s because he spent the first four years of his life stuck in a tank in a dark closet.

Now, he just might be the most spoiled gator alive.

“The white on his nose is sunscreen," she says.

Yes, like any other Floridian, Rambo wears sunscreen. He doesn’t just ride on his little motorbike, he also rides with Thorn on her motorcycle. The motorcycle has a side car attached with a big black box Rambo rides in. The pair go everywhere together.

Rambo is like a son to her and his importance in the family grew after she lost her son to cancer. Recently, her nephew died in a car accident. She can’t stand the thought of Rambo being taken away.

“That is really going to kill me with all the losses that I’ve had. I am on medications for the anxiety over all this and losing my son, so I don’t know how I’m going to react,” said Thorn.

Since Rambo is now six feet long state law requires owners to have at least two and a half acres of land. Thorn doesn’t have that but she says Rambo wouldn’t benefit from more land since he’s an indoor gator. He’s never lived in the wild.

Thorn said Rambo’s visited schools, reptile shows and people are drawn to him. She says he’s never bitten anyone and her neighbors’ kids absolutely adore him.

“His kids come over all the time you know and they’ll put food down for him and stuff like this, they’ll talk to him he’ll sit on their laps, they’ll pet him and that’s what he does with everybody,” said Thorn.

Her Facebook page has plenty of with photos of people petting, kissing and carrying Rambo. He has his own room with a big pool, eats at the dinner table and sleeps like a king.

“I got small bed that my daughter, she just moved out because she’s grown up now you know and he climbs in her bed or he’ll come in with the dogs and I, mostly it’s with the dogs and myself, I get a lot of comments about that; I don’t think I’ll ever have a boyfriend!” said Thorn.

Thorn says Rambo’s scared of outdoor noises and doesn’t like to be without her.

“He really grieves when I’m gone. He looks for me he goes through the house like a lost gator if I’m out of his sight for 15 minutes and he couldn’t see me he would get down and come around so he could see me,” said Thorn.

More than 2,000 people have signed a change.org petition to keep this odd couple together.

Florida Fish and Wildlife said it’s reviewing Thorn’s application to renew her gator license. They did not say when a decision would be made.