Houston, TX

Houston Zoo's 90-year-old tortoise 'Mr. Pickles' is a first-time father of three

B.R. Shenoy

It's always heartwarming to hear about successful breeding efforts, especially when it comes to endangered species.

TurtlePhoto byivabalk from Pixabay

Houston Zoo's oldest resident, a 90-year-old tortoise from Madagascar, has reportedly become a father for the first time, thanks to a sharp-eyed zookeeper.

The tortoise, Mr. Pickles, had been living at the zoo for 36 years before he was paired with Mrs. Pickles, and the couple had been childless until recently. Radiated tortoises are known to produce few offspring. 

A zoo worker discovered Mrs. Pickles' eggs and took them to the Reptile and Amphibian House since Houston's soil is unsuitable for the tortoise eggs.

Three eggs successfully hatched on March 16, and the baby tortoises, named Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño, will remain in the building until they are big enough to join their parents safely.

Radiated Tortoise

The radiated tortoise, originates from southern Madagascar. These tortoises are recognizable by their dome-shaped shell with streaks that extend from each plate. They start small, measuring only 1.25 inches when they hatch, and can grow up to 16 inches long.

Per GMA;

“The radiated tortoise is considered critically endangered due to loss of habitat, poaching and exploitation from the illegal pet trade, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which has listed the tortoise on its "Red List" of endangered species.”

Mr Pickles and his offspring

Mr. Pickles, a first-time father, holds the distinction of being the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise according to the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

According to the zoo, the shells of the trio can distinguish them from one another. Jalapeño has the darkest shell, while Dill's shell is lighter. Gherkin's shell is also light but has a white dot in the center.


Captive breeding programs, like the one at the Houston Zoo, are crucial for the survival of these animals. Mr. Pickles' successful mating with Mrs. Pickles and the subsequent hatching of their three baby tortoises is a beacon of hope for the species.

It's a reminder that we can help preserve and protect endangered species from extinction with careful management and dedicated efforts.

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