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Jawlene, An Alligator with Missing Jaw Thrives in Florida’s Gatorland Against All Odds

Jawlene the jawless alligator

Meet Jawlene, an alligator who despite losing her entire upper jaw, found a sanctuary and a chance to thrive at Gatorland in Orlando. This story isn’t just about survival, it’s a testament to resilience and adaptability in the face of severe challenges. Jawlene is a real trooper and her story to survive has inspired many. After weeks trying to survive in the wild, Jawlene was rescued in 2023, and rehabilitated in Gatorland.

A chance to Survive

Jawlene jawless alligator
Jawlene jawless alligator. Source: YouTube: Channel, KHOU 11

Years ago, Jawlene was discovered by a trapper lying beside a lake near Sanford, 25 miles north of Orlando. She looked malnourished, tired, and missing her entire upper jaw. Vets examining her found she weighed under 7.3 pounds and measuring 49 inches.

A real fighter

jawless alligator
A real fighter. Source: YouTube, Channel: KHOU 11

Jawlene turned out a fighter. The gator presumed to be around 3-4 years old bewildered the experts who wondered how did she breathe. Most animals breathe through their nostrils, but Jawlene’s airways had gone and the hole that connected to her sinus cavity had healed over.

How did she get injured?

Vets inspect Jawlene. Source: YouTube, Channel: WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando

The exact circumstances of Jawlene’s injury remain unclear, but it is believed to have resulted from a violent encounter, possibly with another alligator, or she might have been hit by a boat . Such injuries are not uncommon in wild populations where competition over territory and mates can lead to fierce confrontations.

Veterinary Intervention and Care

Alligator without jaw
Jawlene receives medical treatment. Source: YouTube, Channel: CBS 12 News – WPEC

Upon her arrival, Gatorland’s veterinary team assessed Jawlene’s condition to develop a tailored feeding plan. Her injury required innovative approaches to feeding and infection prevention, ensuring her comfort and health. In Gatorland Jawlene received a lot of tender loving care where officials declared she would live out her life in Alligator Paradise.

Jawlene’s New Home: Safety and Care at Gatorland

jawlene alligator
Her new home in Gatorland. Source: YouTube, Channel: CBS 12 News – WPEC

Gatorland, a renowned reptile park, offered Jawlene a secure environment where her unique needs could be addressed by wildlife specialists. Gatorland, located in Orlando, Florida, is a renowned wildlife park and theme attraction established in 1949. Known as the “Alligator Capital of the World,” it spans 110 acres and offers visitors a unique opportunity to observe and interact with alligators and crocodiles.

Named Jawlene after a Dolly Parton song

Jawlene walking
Jawlene walking again. Source: YouTube, Channel: CBS 12 News – WPEC

In September 2023, Gatorland officials posted an update on their social media handle comparing the little gator to singer Dolly Parton. She was then given the name “Jawlene” after Parton’s 1973 hit single Jolene.

A living Miracle

Jawlene the gator
A miracle gator. Source: YouTube, Channel: KHOU 11

Jawlene was a living miracle. Many felt she had no chance of surviving in the wild with such a severe injury. However, with the care she received at Gatorland, she began to thrive and even put on weight

The first milestone

Alligator with no jaw
Jawlene eating. Source: YouTube, Channel: WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando

Jawlene’s name day was chosen the day she could finally eat on her own. Officials reported how she was finally able to eat two mice by cleverly placing them on the back of her exposed tongue and throwing her head back.

Feeding Techniques: Adaptation and Innovation

Jawless alligator feeding
Jawlene learns to eat. Source: YouTube, Channel: WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando

One of the significant challenges was adapting Jawlene’s feeding process to her condition. The park’s caretakers developed methods to feed her soft, easily consumable food that does not require extensive jaw usage, demonstrating significant adaptation and care. To help her eat more comfortably, vets were considering creating a prosthetic jaw.

On public display for the first time.

Jawlene on display
Jawlene on display. Source: YouTube, Channel: WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando

For several months during her rehabilitation, Jawlene lived in her own private pool. In January, 2024, she was finally shifted to the park’s Baby Gator Marsh enclosure where she could be viewed by the public.

The main attraction at Gatorland

Jawlene in enclosure
Jawlene in enclosure. Source: YouTube, Channel: WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando

Despite their fearsome reputation, Gatorland’s Jawlene has become a beloved favorite, capturing the hearts of visitors, and becoming the most inquired-about animal among the park’s 125 alligators. Gatorland, known for its mission to cherish even the most unlovable creatures, also hosts crocodiles, snakes, birds, and other wildlife at its charming, vintage Florida roadside attraction.

Public and Educational Impact

Jawleen with a Gatorland official
Jawleen with a Gatorland official. Source: YouTube, Channel: WESH 2 News

Jawlene’s story has become a focal point for educational talks at Gatorland, where visitors learn about wildlife resilience, the impact of injuries in wild animals, and the role of conservation programs in providing second chances to injured wildlife.

Ongoing Monitoring and Health Assessments

Alligator jawless
Jawlene loves moving around. Source: YouTube, Channel: CBS 12 News – WPEC

Regular health assessments ensure that Jawlene’s condition is stable and that any potential complications are addressed promptly. These assessments are crucial for her continued well-being and help refine her care regimen.

The Role of Sanctuaries in Wildlife Conservation

gators in gatorland
Gatorland. Source: YouTube, Channel: Gatorland VLOGS

Jawlene’s situation highlights the critical role of wildlife sanctuaries like Gatorland in the conservation and care of animals that are no longer able to survive in the wild. These facilities are vital for the treatment and rehabilitation of injured animals.

Community Support and Global Interest

Alligator in pool
Jawleen in her enclosure. Source: YouTube, Channel: WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando

The unique story of Jawlene has garnered attention from a global audience, increasing awareness about wildlife conservation issues and the specific challenges faced by animals with disabilities.

Challenges of Caring for a Disabled Alligator

Display at Gatorland
Jawleen’s display sign at Gatorland. Source: YouTube, Channel: WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando

Caring for an alligator like Jawlene poses unique challenges, from dietary needs to ensuring her safety and comfort within the park. The staff’s dedication to her well-being exemplifies the commitment required to care for special-needs wildlife. While Jawlene’s condition is permanent, her ongoing adaptation and the continuous improvement of her living conditions reflect positively on her future quality of life at Gatorland.

A Symbol of Resilience and Hope

Savannah Boan of Gatorland
Savannah Boan of Gatorland. Source: Facebook:

Jawlene’s story is more than just a tale of survival; it’s a source of inspiration and a beacon of hope. It underscores the importance of wildlife conservation efforts and the profound impact of care and compassion in the lives of animals. In a Facebook update about Jawlene in November 2023, Savannah Boan of Gatorland wrote. “Jawlene is an incredible testament to the strength and resilience of the great American Alligator. From learning how she had adapted to living as a wild alligator to being patient and watching her show us how to best feed her so that she doesn’t get frustrated and give up

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