Mr. Pickles, a 90-year-old tortoise, has become a dad for the first time, siring three adorable offspring.
Last Thursday, the Houston Zoo in Texas announced that their oldest resident welcomed three cleverly named hatchlings – Jalapeño, Gherkin and Dill – with Mrs. Pickles, his 53-year-old mate.
The Pickle pair have been partners for almost 30 years, ever since Mrs. Pickles came to the zoo in 1996.
Dubbed the “sweet baby pickles,” the trio of radiated tortoises came as quite a surprise to zookeepers. An eagle-eyed herpetology keeper found Mrs. Pickles laying her eggs close to the zoo’s closing time one day and was able to uncover the eggs and get them to safety.
According to a blog post announcing the birth, the soil in Houston isn’t hospitable to the Madagascar-native tortoises and it’s unlikely the eggs would have hatched had the zookeeper not been there that night.
Even more impressive, the zoo notes, is that radiated tortoises typically only live to be about 40 or 50 years old and don’t produce many offspring.
And while the zoo calls their newest additions a “big dill,” it says the trio will remain “behind the scenes” until they are big enough to join their parents.
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.
Being a first-time dad is just the latest update on Mr. Pickles’ impressive resume. He is also considered the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan.