Mar 20, 2023 - News

Endangered tortoises have three hatchlings at Houston Zoo

Photo of three baby tortoises

The baby tortoises. Photo: Jackelin Reyna/Houston Zoo

The oldest animal at the Houston Zoo just became a father to three baby tortoises.

Driving the cuteness: Mr. Pickles, a 90-year-old radiated tortoise, and his partner, Mrs. Pickles, 53, are now the parents of Dill, Gherkin and Jalapeño.

Why it matters: Mr. Pickles is the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan, making his offspring an important contribution to the future of this critically endangered species.

  • Plus: They're adorable.

Context: Radiated tortoises are known to produce few offspring.

Flashback: Mr. Pickles has been at the zoo for 36 years and has been with Mrs. Pickles since she arrived in 1996.

  • The Pickles had had only one little Pickle previously, in 1997.

What they're saying: According to zoo officials, the hatchlings were a surprise. A herpetology keeper saw Mrs. Pickles as she was laying her eggs at closing time.

  • "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," per the Houston Zoo.

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