90-Year-Old Tortoise 'Mr. Pickles' Becomes Oldest First-Time Dad at Houston Zoo

Mr. and Mrs. Pickles, partners for 27 years, recently welcomed three baby hatchlings named Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño, according to the Texas zoo's website

A 90-year-old tortoise native to Madagascar, the oldest animal at Houston Zoo, is now reportedly a first-time dad thanks to a zookeeper with a keen eye.

Mr. Pickles moved to the Texas facility 36 years ago and partnered up with Mrs. Pickles 27 years into his residency, the Houston Zoo shared. The couple remained childless until recently when a worker noticed Mrs. Pickles' eggs at closing and quickly scooped them up to take them to the zoo's Reptile and Amphibian House. Houston's soil is unsuitable for tortoise eggs native to Madagascar, an island country off the coast of Northeast Africa, so the eggs weren't safe outdoors.

On Thursday, three eggs from the Pickles pair successfully hatched at the zoo's Reptile and Amphibian House. The new tortoises — named Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño — will stay at the building "until they are big enough to safely join their parents," the zoo's website said.

PEOPLE contacted the Houston Zoo for official comment and more information on the new family of five.

radiated tortoise hatchlings
Jackelin Reyna/Houston Zoo

The zoo also posted an update about the tortoises to its Facebook page: "Baby pickles have hatched! At 90 years young, Mr. Pickles is the oldest animal at the Zoo and is the newest father of three radiated tortoises."

"These little Pickles are a big dill for radiated tortoise genetics as their father is the most genetically valuable radiated tortoise in The Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP)," the post added.

radiated tortoise hatchlings
Houston Zoo

While Mr. Pickles' 90 years is impressive, a tortoise named Jonathan is the world's oldest living tortoise and land animal, according to Guinness World Records. He recently celebrated his 190th birthday, though the exact date of Jonathan's birth is unknown.

The Seychelles tortoise was born in the early 1800s, and based on the reptile's physical health and early photos of Jonathan, experts believed the tortoise is around 190 years old. He has lived on the remote Island of St. Helena, situated amid the South Atlantic Ocean, since 1882.

"Jonathan could actually be 200 because the information regarding his arrival on the island is not exact and because there's no real record of his birth," Matt Joshua, head of tourism on St. Helena, told CNN earlier last year.

radiated tortoise hatchlings
Jackelin Reyna/Houston Zoo

Shell measurements documented upon his arrival on the island show that Jonathan was fully grown and at least 50 years old at that time.

Jonathan has lived through two World Wars, watched more than 35 governors of the island come and go, and has seen the island introduce radios, telephones, TVs, internet, cars, and an airport.

radiated tortoise hatchlings
Jackelin Reyna/Houston Zoo

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As for radiated tortoises like Mr. Pickles, they are known to be "critically endangered from over-collection for the illegal pet trade and are known to produce few offspring," Houston Zoo reported, urging people to visit the zoo to help save wild animals in Madagascar, which is southwest of Seychelles, an archipelago made up of around 115 islands in the Indian Ocean.

"A portion of each Zoo membership and admission goes toward helping the Zoo's partners in Madagascar replant wildlife habitat to save animals in the wild," the Houston Zoo's site noted.

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