90-Year-Old Tortoise Becomes First-Time Dad to Three Hatchlings

Tortoise hatchling in human hands

Photo: Jackelin Reyna / Houston Zoo

Mr. Pickles, a 90-year-old radiated tortoise and oldest resident at the Houston Zoo, has finally become a father. After cohabitating with his companion, Mrs. Pickles, for 27 years, they recently welcomed three hatchlings, named Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño. While this is an important step for the Pickles family, it is also an important achievement for this critically endangered species originally from Madagascar.

It has been 36 years since Mr. Pickles was brought to the Houston Zoo, but these are his first hatchlings. “These little Pickles are a big deal (big dill?) for radiated tortoise genetics as their father, Mr. Pickles, is the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise in the Association of Zoos and Aquarium (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP),” the Houston Zoo says in their statement. After zookeepers saw Mrs. Pickles laying the eggs in the exhibit, the animal care team retrieved the eggs and brought them to the Reptile & Amphibian House as the soil in Houston is not consistent with their native environment in Madagascar.

Under the supervision of the zoo staff, the eggs hatched into three healthy tortoises. While they are currently small enough to fit in the palm of someone's hand, they will eventually grow to about a foot in length and weigh up to 35 pounds. “Radiated tortoises are critically endangered from over-collection for the illegal pet trade and are known to produce few offspring,” the zoo adds. In addition to doing its part in raising these hatchlings, the Houston Zoo also donates a portion of its membership and admission to helping Madagascar replant wildlife habitats and assist vulnerable wild animals.

A radiated tortoise at the Houston Zoo named Mr. Pickles has just become at first-time dad.


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He and his partner of 27 years, Mrs. Pickles, welcomed three hatchlings named Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño.

Tortoises Mr. Pickles and Mrs. Pickles eating lettuce

Photo: Houston Zoo

These small radiated tortoises signify an important accomplishment for the species, which is critically endangered in Madagascar.


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Houston Zoo: Website | Facebook | Instagram
h/t: [CBS]

All images via Houston Zoo / Jackelin Reyna.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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