The Houston Zoo has revealed a happy surprise: three baby tortoises that belong to a critically endangered species. As NPR reports, the triplets' arrival is particularly noteworthy because the father is the zoo's oldest resident—90-year-old Mr. Pickles. He has been partnered with 53-year-old Mrs. Pickles since 1996. Radiated tortoises can live for about 150 years, but the New York Times notes it's not clear how long they are able to sire children. Generally speaking, the tortoises produce few offspring, whether in the wild or captivity. Both stories report the successful hatchings were made possible by a sharp-eyed zoo staffer.
The unnamed worker saw Mrs. Pickles laying the eggs, and they almost certainly would not have survived in Houston's soil. The zoo transferred the eggs to the Reptile and Amphibian House for five months—to mimic what would have been their natural surroundings in Madagascar—before placing them in an incubator for hatching. A release from the zoo (which can't resist calling the news a "big dill") reveals the names of Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeno. When the trio are big enough, they will join their parents for public viewing. (Read more tortoise stories.)