The new hatchlings came as a surprise when a herpetology keeper happened upon Mrs. Pickles as she was laying her eggs at closing time.
Mr. Pickles, a 90-year-old radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) and the oldest animal at the Houston Zoo has become a father for the first time with Mrs. Pickles, who laid three eggs that hatched. The duo became an item when they were paired in 1996, when Mrs. Pickles arrived to become a companion to Mr. Pickles, who has been at the zoo for 36 years.
“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 zoo wrote on its news blog. “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.”
According to the zoo, Mr. Pickles is the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan. The three hatchlings are named Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño. They will remain behind the scenes until they are old and healthy enough to join their father in the zoo’s Reptile & Amphibian House display.
Radiated Tortoise Information
The radiated tortoise is a critically endangered, CITES Appendix I reptile that is native to southern Madagascar. It is known for its beautifully patterned yellow lines that radiate in a star pattern from the center of each of plate on the shell. This pattern is what makes the tortoise highly sought after in the illicit animal trade. The species is critically endangered due to loss of habitat and the food and illicit pet trade. The species is widely captive bred in the United States and elsewhere for the pet trade.