It’s baby dill time at the Houston Zoo after a tortoise name Mr. Pickles surprised everyone by becoming a dad for the first time. Mr. Pickles is 90.
Mr. Pickles is the oldest animal at the Houston Zoo and now a first-time father after three radiated tortoise eggs hatched. 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).
Mr. Pickles has been at the Zoo for 36 years and has been with his companion, Mrs. Pickles, since she arrived in 1996.
Mr. Pickles previously was thought to have sired a tortoise named Fluke with Mrs. Pickles. But research later discovered that Fluke is the offspring of a different male.
The new tortoises have been named Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño and will remain behind the scenes in the Reptile & Amphibian House 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 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.