March 27, 2023
At 90 years young, Mr. Pickles is the oldest animal at the Houston Zoo—and has now become the wildlife park’s most senior first-time father, the zoo reports.
Radiated tortoises—which can live as long as double Mr. Pickles’ age—are a rare species native to Madagascar. The three Pickles offspring that hatched recently 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.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 female tortoise was laying her eggs at closing time at the zoo. 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.
The new brood will help support radiated tortoises in their native homes off the East Coast of Africa. A portion of each zoo membership and admission goes toward helping the zoo’s partners in Madagascar replant wildlife habitats to save animals in the wild.
Research contact: @houstonzoo