90-year-old tortoise Mr. Pickles welcomes three newborns at Houston Zoo
A 90-year-old tortoise named Mr. Pickles welcomed three new hatchlings to the world at the Houston Zoo.
Mr. Pickles, a critically endangered reptile from Madagascar, became a new father after a vigilant keeper spotted the eggs just in time.
Although he’s been together with Mrs. Pickles for 27 years, the two only ever had one hatchling in 1997, as tortoises don’t often reproduce, the zoo said.
That is until the birth of their three new children, aptly named Dill, Gherkin and Jalapeño.
Officials noted the extra excitement around the newborns given Mr. Pickles exceptional rarity among his kind.
“These little Pickles are a big ‘dill’ for radiated tortoise genetics as their father is the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise in The Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” Zoo officials said in a statement.
The big discovery occurred earlier this year when a herpetology keeper spotted eggs lying near Mrs. Pickles one night as the zoo was closing.
The eggs were then taken in for incubation to mimic the hatching conditions of the reptiles’ native Madagascar.
Houston Zoo officials noted that if not for the vigilant zookeeper, the babies may not have been born. The newborns will be kept at the zoo’s Reptile and Amphibian House until they’re old enough to be reunited with their parents.
Radiated tortoises are native to the brushlands, thorn forests and woodlands of southern Madagascar, with recorded lifespans of up to 188 years, which would classify Mr. Pickles as a middle-aged tortoise.
The species is classified as endangered due to humans collecting and selling them as part of an illegal pet trade.
In 2018, Madagascar officials found 10,000 stolen radiated tortoises in a single home in the city of Toliara, with the nation’s environmental agency tipped off by reports of an overwhelming stench of feces and urine.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature said that given the rise of exploitation and overall habit loss, there has been an 80 percent decrease in the species’ population over just three generations.