HOUSTON, Texas -- The oldest animal at the Houston Zoo is also its newest father.
At 90 years old, an endangered radiated tortoise named Mr. Pickles and his mate Mrs. Pickles welcomed three new little ones: Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño.
The eggs were a surprise to the staff.
A herpetology keeper happened to stumble upon Mrs. Pickles as she laid her eggs at closing time. The animal care team quickly recovered the eggs and got them to safety at the Reptile and Amphibian House.
It is considered unique because the soil in Houston is not hospitable to the Madagascar natives and it's unlikely the eggs would have hatched had the keeper not happened to be there.
The big "Dill"
Mr. Pickles is the most genetically valuable tortoise in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan, and so are the newest three little Pickles.
Radiated tortoises are critically endangered from an over-collection for the illegal pet trade and are known to produce few offspring.
Mr. Pickes has been a resident of the Houston Zoo for 36 years, along with Mrs.Pickles, who arrived in 1996.
In 1997, the Pickles welcomed a little one.
The new additions will remain behind the scenes in the Reptile and Amphibian House until they grow big enough to join their parents safely.
A portion of each Houston Zoo membership and admission will go toward helping the Zoo's partners in Madagascar replant wildlife habitats to save animals in the wild.