Jawless Florida alligator named Jawlene for fellow ‘treasure’ Dolly Parton

Rescuers who took in a jawless Florida alligator have given the bedraggled reptile a new, Dolly Parton-inspired name: Jawlene.

Gatorland, an 110-acre theme park near Orlando that rescues alligators, made the cheeky announcement earlier this week following numerous submissions. Jawlene is a nod to Parton’s famed 1973 song Jolene, during which she begs a romantic rival not to steal her partner.

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“We’re just a down home, southern country gem and of course, if you come visit with us, you get our warm, southern hospitality every time you come,” said the CEO of Gatorland, Mark McHugh, in a video announcement on Facebook.

“This little gator is an absolute treasure. We are so in love with her – but another American treasure is Dolly Parton.”

Standing alongside the park’s global conservation ambassador, Savannah Boan, McHugh said: “Man, we love Dolly so much. One of the names that kind of rung really clear with us and grew with us was a takeoff on one of Dolly’s famous songs. We’re going to name this little gator Jawlene.”

“Jawlene, Jawlene, Jawlene, Jaw-lee-ee-ene,” Boan sang, echoing the refrain from the song, which is “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jo-lee-e-ene.”

During the naming announcement, they also revealed that Jawlene’s condition appeared to be improving. Boan revealed that Jawlene ate two mice that day, “all on her own”.

Jawlene drew international attention earlier this month after she was spotted with the top half of her jaw missing. Eustacia Kanter said to People that she snapped a photo of the gator at a Sanford, Florida, park on 29 August.

Later, Katrina Shadix posted a photograph on Facebook, asking: “Is anyone in the area that can HELP this poor alligator?” In the dramatic photograph, the alligator’s tongue is clearly seen and her snout is ripped off below her eyes, per People.

Kim Titterington, a wildlife rehabilitator to whom Shadix reached out, described the gator’s state as “very shocking”.

“From the image I was provided, the alligator appears to have good body weight, and the injury healed over, but the continued survivability in the wild is slim,” he said to People. “It could be from another alligator but the clean cut also suggests this animal was caught in a hunting snare.”

The alligator was caught in mid-September, per CBS 12 News, and subsequently taken to Gatorland.

In February, an alligator in Florida was rescued after being discovered with its mouth taped shut, according to Fox 13 News. A resident who had spotted the gator said the hapless animal’s mouth had been restrained since December 2022, WFLA reported.