Jonathan the Tortoise: World’s oldest living land animal celebrates 191st birthday

Jonathan the Tortoise: World’s oldest living land animal celebrates 191st birthday

St. Helena's esteemed national treasure, dating back to a time before the advent of telephones, continues to thrive and is anticipated to reach its third century.

Jonathan, the Seychelles giant tortoise and the world's eldest living land creature, recently marked his 191st birthday.

Originating around 1832, Jonathan predates notable innovations like postal stamps, the telephone, and photography.

This iconic tortoise has witnessed the entire U.S. Civil War, a significant portion of Queen Victoria's reign, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, and both World Wars.

Residing on Saint Helena since 1882, Jonathan has gracefully withstood the test of time, enduring epochs of historical significance.

Remarkably, he has maintained a 26-year companionship with another male tortoise, demonstrating his adaptability and resilience.

Jonathan not only holds the distinction of being the world's oldest living land creature but also stands as the most senior member of the chelonian family, encompassing tortoises, turtles, and terrapins.

Recognized as a national treasure in St Helena, Jonathan is featured on the local five pence coin. Despite being blind and lacking a sense of smell, he freely roams the grounds of the Governor's house.

Jonathan at Plantation House | St Helena Island
Photo: StHelena

As per his veterinarian, Joe Hollins, Jonathan is presently in good health, and there are positive indicators suggesting he may witness his third century. The exact date of his birth remains uncertain, estimated based on his maturity upon arriving on the island in 1882.

The St Helena Island website acknowledges this uncertainty, likening it to the arbitrary assignment of celebration dates, such as December 25 for Jesus's birthday.

Age poses no hindrance to a fulfilling life, as evidenced by Jonathan the Tortoise at 191.

In the 1980s, Jonathan experienced irritability attributed to loneliness but found companionship in 1991 with a mate named Frederica. Despite no offspring, it took 26 years to realize Frederica was male.

Jonathan's enduring vitality includes a "good libido," as noted by his veterinarian. Despite blindness and loss of smell, he shows no signs of slowing down, with a dedicated team ensuring his well-being.

According to the Guinness World Records, Jonathan predates major inventions such as the modern bicycle (1885), commercial lightbulb (1879), powered airship (1852), photograph (1839), and revolver (1836).

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