The Houston Zoo is celebrating its oldest resident, Mr. Pickles the tortoise, who is currently relishing life as a first-time dad at the age of 90.
The zoo proudly announced the hatch of three baby radiated tortoises, dubbed the "sweet baby pickles," to longtime tortoise couple Mr. and Mrs. Pickles on March 16.
The new tortoise babies are named Dill, Gherkin and Jalapeño, according to the zoo's announcement blog post. The trio will remain "behind the scenes" until they are big enough to join their parents, the zoo said.
Mr. Pickles has been at the Houston Zoo for 36 years and has been with his companion Mrs. Pickles since she arrived at the zoo in 1996.
"The new hatchlings came as a surprise when a herpetology keeper happened upon Mrs. Pickles as the tortoise was laying her eggs at closing time. The animal care team quickly went to work uncovering the eggs and getting them to the safety of the Reptile & Amphibian House," the zoo said in its blog post.
"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 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.