90-Year-Old Tortoise Father


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

Mr. and Mrs. Pickles are now the parents of Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño after 27 years of companionship

Mr. Pickles, a 90-year-old radiated tortoise at the Houston Zoo, is a first-time father after his partner of 27 years, Mrs. Pickles, laid three eggs that hatched last week.

The three new hatchlings were given the family names of Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño. A team at the Reptile & Amphibian House will take care of the baby tortoises until they’re old enough to join their parents.


Radiated tortoises, a critically endangered species, are native to southern Madagascar. Known for their high-domed shell marked with streaks that radiate from each plate, they are as small as 1.25 inches upon hatching and grow to be about 16 inches in length.


Females typically lay three to 12 eggs that have a relatively long incubation period of five to eight months, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute.


Mrs. Pickle’s eggs came as a surprise to herpetologists at the zoo who spotted her laying them around closing time several months ago.

“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,” the Houston Zoo explained.

While Mr. Pickles is at the ripe age of 90, the oldest radiated tortoise in history, Tu’i Malila, lived to be 188 years old.


Researchers from the University of Auckland and Auckland Institute and Museum wrote in an academic article in 1971 that British explorer Captain James Cook gave Tu’i Malila to the royal family of Tonga in 1777, where the tortoise lived until his death in 1966.

The record for the oldest known land animal in the world belongs to Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise who turned 190 years old in December.


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