The Houston Zoo in Texas is celebrating the arrival of three radiated tortoise hatchlings. The tiny tortoises would be a blessing under any circumstance, but this trio’s birth story is remarkable.
Their father, Mr. Pickles, turned 90 years old back in November and now is the newest father among the zoo’s animals, according to the zoo’s Facebook account. Mr. Pickles has been living at the Houston Zoo for 36 years, and his partner, Mrs. Pickles, arrived to join him in 1996. The male tortoise is also the oldest animal at the zoo.
Workers at the zoo got a surprise a while back when they noticed Mrs. Pickles laying eggs at the end of a busy day. The timing was perfect, according to the zoo’s description of the discovery.
“The animal care team quickly went to work uncovering the eggs and getting them to the safety of the Reptile & Amphibian House,” the Houston Zoo said in a statement. “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.”
Radiated tortoise eggs usually take between 5 and 8 months to incubate. After months of care by the zoo team, three new babies — named Dill, Gherkin and Jalapeño — recently arrived and seem to be doing well.
At 90 years young, Mr. Pickles is the oldest animal at the Zoo and the newest father of 3 radiated tortoises. It's a big dill for radiated tortoise genetics as their father is the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise in the @zoos_aquariums Species Survival Plan®. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/Su1R3XK43N
— Houston Zoo (@houstonzoo) March 16, 2023
Zoo employees will continue to monitor the hatchlings’ condition behind the scenes, so it will be a little while before curious visitors get their first peek at the tiny trio.
In addition to their dad’s age making the babies’ arrival special, their benefit to the breed’s survival can’t be overlooked, according to the Houston Zoo. Radiated tortoises like Mr. Pickles are “critically endangered from over-collection for the illegal pet trade and are known to produce few offspring,” the zoo said.
Once the teeny tortoises get a little bigger, they will join Mr. and Mrs. Pickles to meet their adoring fans.