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Oldest tortoise at Houston Zoo becomes father to 3 hatchlings


Hatchlings are significant for radiated tortoise genetics as their 90-year-old dad is the most genetically valuable of this species in the AZA's SSP

The Houston Zoo recently announced that, Mr. Pickles, the zoo’s oldest animal at 90-years-old, is the newest father to 3 radiated tortoises. Their names remain on theme, and are Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño.

The 3 little "pickles" (All images courtesy of Houston Zoo).

The 3 little "pickles" (All images courtesy of Houston Zoo).

According to an organizational release,1 these hatchlings are significant for radiated tortoise genetics as their father, Mr. Pickles, is the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. While Mr. Pickles has been at the Houston Zoo for 36 years, he has been with his companion, Mrs. Pickles, since her arrival in 1996. The duo has had one other baby tortoise in 1997.

The legend, 90-year-old Mr. Pickles.

The legend, 90-year-old Mr. Pickles.

These tortoises came as a surprise when a herpetology keeper discovered Mrs. Pickles laying eggs around closing time. The animal care team uncovered the eggs and put them safely in the Reptile & Amphibian House. Houston soil isn’t welcoming to Madagascar native tortoises, so fortunately the keepers were there because the eggs likely wouldn’t have hatched on their own.

Radiated tortoises are critically endangered due to over-collection from the illegal pet trade, and they typically produce few offspring.1 Visitors at the zoo help contribute to saving wild animals in Madagascar as a portion of each membership and admission goes to helping the zoo’s partners in Madagascar replant wildlife habitats.

The trio of new hatchlings will remain behind the scenes in the Reptile & Amphibian House until they reach the size to safely join their parents.


Oh sweet baby Pickles. News release. Houston Zoo. March 16, 2023. Accessed March 17, 2023. https://www.houstonzoo.org/blog/oh-sweet-baby-pickles

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