HOUSTON, Texas (WPDE) — The oldest tortoise at the Houston Zoo is a first-time father to three radiated tortoises.
At 90 years old, Mr. Pickles is also the oldest animal at the zoo.
These little Pickles are a big deal (big dill?) for radiated tortoise genetic as their father, Mr. Pickles, is the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP)," according to a news release from the zoo.
He has been at the zoo for 36 years and has been with his companion, Mrs. Pickles, since 1996.
The release noted the new tortoises named Dill, Gherkin and Jalapeño will remain behind the scenes until they are big enough to safely join their parents.
The new hatchlings came as a surprise when a herpetology keeper happened upon Mrs. Pickles as the tortoise was laying her eggs at closing time," the release noted. "The animal care team quickly went to work uncovering the eggs and getting them to the safety of the Reptile & Amphibian House. The soil in Houston isn’t hospitable to the Madagascar native tortoises, and it’s unlikely the eggs would have hatched on their own if the keeper hadn’t been in the right place at the right time."
The zoo also noted that radiated tortoises are critically endangered from over-collection for the illegal pet trade and are known to produce few offspring.