Jonathan the Giant Tortoise Turns 190 Years Old, Making Him the Oldest Tortoise Ever

Jonathan the Giant Tortoise Turns 190 Year Old, Making Him the Oldest Tortoise Ever

Jonathan photographed in April 2021. (Photo: Xben911 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Birthday wishes are in order for Jonathan the Seychelles giant tortoise. The lumbering giant turns 190 years old in 2022. Already the oldest living land animal, this recent milestone is another Guinness World Record for Jonathan. He is now the oldest chelonian ever—a category which include turtles, tortoises, and terrapins. The super-centenarian is still living the good life on the island of St. Helena as befits such a distinguished creature.

While his exact birth year is not known, Jonathan was at least 50 years old when he arrived on the island of St. Helena from his native Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. He was captured on film in 1886, already fully mature for his species, the Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa. This makes his birth year 1832 or even earlier. He has lived most of his life on the grounds of the governor's residence in St. Helena, outlasting 32 governors.

During his lifetime, Jonathan has lived through some significant milestones. He was a youth when the first photograph of a person was taken. He arrived, fully mature, at St. Helena before the Eiffel Tower was unveiled in Paris. The giant tortoise is older than electricity, telephones, and automobiles. While this lifespan is impressive, it is not uncommon for tortoises to live for over 100 years. The previous record holder for longest-lived chelonian was held by Tu’i Malila, a radiated tortoise. He was a gift from Captain Cook to the royalty of Tonga. He passed away in 1965 at the age of 188.

Jonathan is still going strong although his sight and sense of smell aren't what they used to be. He reportedly loves to bask in sunlight and finds snug leaf piles when it gets cold. His three giant tortoise friends (and lovers) keep him company. Their names are David, Emma, and Fred. Jonathan is hand-fed once a week to boost his nutritional intake. He enjoys cabbages, cucumbers, carrots, and apples. He also enjoys his time with vet Dr. Joe Hollins, whose voice he associates with yummy treats. Congratulations to Jonathan on his newest record and his exceptional life.

Jonathan the giant tortoise has turned 190, making him the oldest tortoise ever.

Johnathan in St Helena in the 19th Century

Jonathan (left tortoise) photographed circa 1882-1886 at the governor's residence in St. Helena. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

He lives a quiet life in St. Helena where he gets yummy snacks and sleeps in the sun.

Tortoise Named Jonathan Takes a Bath

Jonathan recieved his first ever bath in 2016 by vet Dr. Joe Hollins. (Photo: screenshot from a video from St Helena Government)

Jonathan is also the oldest living animal.

h/t: [Guinness World Records]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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