Jonathan The Tortoise Marks 187th Birthday As He Continues To Hold Record As 'Oldest Living Animal On The Planet'

Dec 12, 2019 by apost team

A tortoise in the South Atlantic island of St. Helena is being celebrated as the world’s oldest land animal. Jonathan the tortoise is no spring chicken. The now 187-year-old tortoise was brought to the volcanic island in 1882 when he was a sprightly 50 years old as a gift for William Grey-Wilson, who was the governor then.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, he was originally born on the island of Seychelles in the Indian Ocean around 1832. One can imagine the wonders and history Jonathan has witnessed over the years.

When Jonathan was born, Andrew Jackson was president and simple items like the photograph and the light bulb weren’t even invented yet. The beautiful animal has been alive to see 38 presidents sit in the White House, along with historical milestones like the First and Second World Wars and the Great Depression.

In an interview with The Dodo, Teeny Lucy, who cares for Jonathan as the head of St. Helena’s local SPCA, calls the tortoise a “grand old gentleman” who has been important to every generation on the island. While the younger Jonathan was known to visit the governor’s house during tea parties and croquet matches, the elder tortoise now mostly lives a quiet life basking in the sun on properties adjacent to Plantation House, the governor’s official residence.

Joe Hollins, the vet who takes care of Jonathan, says that tortoises have a special way of sitting in the sun as they put their legs and neck out of their shell as far as possible to get heat to their core. This strange position has often panicked Jonathan’s caretakers into thinking that he is ill or even dead.

While Jonathan might be the oldest land animal, he still has a wide circle of friends. Fellow tortoises David, Emma, and Fred keep him company and he interacts pleasantly with human visitors as well. Jonathan has achieved a status that basically amount to royalty in St. Helena, where he is even featured on some of the island’s currency. 

Despite his old age, Jonathan is in terrific health. While having lost his sense of smell and suffering from cataracts on his eyes, the old tortoise has an impeccable sense of hearing. His caretakers say that Jonathan knows the sounds of their voices and will come when it is time for his meals, which consist of a healthy assortment of fruits and vegetables.

What do you think of Jonathan being the oldest living land animal in the world? If you could ask Jonathan anything about some of the amazing things he’s witnessed in his long life, what would it be?