World’s Oldest Two-Headed Tortoise Turns 25 Years Old

Tortoises are known for living very long lives. So, living just a couple of decades isn’t normally a big deal for them, but it is cause for celebration when we’re talking about a two-headed tortoise. Meet Janus—the two-headed tortoise who just turned 25, making it the oldest living two-headed tortoise in the world.

Janus, who is named after the two-headed Roman god, holds a special place in the museum's heart and amongst those who work there. He first arrived at the museum in 1997 as an unhatched egg. At the time, the museum had an animal facility that housed an incubator. It was a surprise to everyone when a baby tortoise with two heads emerged.

Ordinarily, the lifespan of a tortoise can stretch from 80 to an impressive 150 years, but Janus is no typical tortoise. The tortoise’s keeper Angelica Bourgoin explains that both of Janus' heads are equally functional, and need to work together for him to move forward, as each brain controls a different side of his body. Also, she explains, one personality is stronger than the other, and they don't always agree. Sometimes, they even want to go in different dieections. Janus also has two hearts and two pairs of lungs.

Ordinarily, tortoises withdraw their heads and tuck their feet beneath their shells for protection in their natural environment; but with two heads, Janus has insufficient room in his shell to hide. In the wild, this would have left him vulnerable to predators, and his life might have been cut short if he had been left to fend for himself. Also, if he were to tip over onto his shell, he wouldn’t be able to flip himself back, which would further threaten his safety.

The museum staff made the responsible decision to keep him as their mascot. Janus has not only survived the past 25 years, but he has also thrived under the wonderful care received.

Regarding his longevity and thriving health, Bourgoin says, “I think it's because of the attention we give him and our devotion that he's still here today.” The healthy tortoise receives organic salad and massages every day, as well as baths in green tea and chamomile. He wakes up to music, exercises every day, and he even has his own custom-made skateboard.

Given how beloved and well taken after he is, it felt only natural that Janus would do something special to mark his milestone birthday. To celebrate, the tortoise had a birthday party at the Natural History Museum in Geneva. The rapturous reptile snacked on tasty treats—including watermelon decorated with bright pansy flowers—to commemorate his special day.

With his fantastic lifestyle and the genetics of his species, we're hoping for an even bigger celebration in another 25 years.

Janus, the world's oldest two-headed tortoise, recently celebrated his 25th birthday at the Natural History Museum in Geneva.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Muséum Genève (@museum.geneve)

Each head of the tortoise has a mind of its own and often tries setting off in opposite directions.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Muséum Genève (@museum.geneve)

There have been many factors working against his survival, but the tortoise has been thriving thanks to the museum’s careful watch.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Muséum Genève (@museum.geneve)

Watch Janus the two-headed tortoise receive a good scrub ahead of his birthday celebrations:

Natural History Museum, Geneva: Website | Instagram
h/t: [Laughing Squid]

Related Articles:

Rare Baby Galápagos Giant Tortoise With Albinism Is Born at Swiss Zoo

Family’s Pet Tortoise Missing for 30 Years Is Found Alive and Well in the Attic

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

Disabled Tortoise Can Finally Move Around Thanks to His New Custom Wheelchair

Kirsten Miller

Kirsten Miller is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. As a writer from South Africa, she has authored a children’s book, a work of non-fiction, and four novels. She has an interest in creativity and neurodiversity, and has contributed to a number of art and writing projects, festivals, and workshops. Kirsten holds an M.A. in Writing and Representation, and when she's not writing, she enjoys painting, creating mosaics, swimming, and walking.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content