Mr. Pickles, is a 90-year-old radiated tortoise and recently became a father to three hatchlings with his partner, Mrs. Pickles, who is 53 years old, at the Houston Zoo. The hatchlings were named as Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño, were born in Febraury on different days and will stay under watch at the Reptile & Amphibian House until they are big enough to join their parents.
The radiated tortoise species is critically endangered due to the illegal pet trade, making the birth of the hatchlings a signifier of the success of conservation efforts. Mr. Pickles is supposed to be the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, an initiative that helps to manage breeding and sustainability of certain species.
The eggs laid by Mrs. Pickles surprised the zookeepers, and it was only by chance that a herpetology keeper stumbled upon her laying them and rescued them from the unsuitable soil in Houston. The population of radiated tortoises has been going down due to extreme drought, habitat degradation, and poaching, posing a threat to the species.
Each of the hatchlings has unique features on their shells, such as Jalapeño having the darkest shell of the three. Mr. and Mrs. Pickles have been companions for a decade, and the first-time father has been a resident at the Houston Zoo for 36 years. The birth of the hatchlings is called a conservation success story, expressing hope for the future of the critically endangered radiated tortoise species.