Jonathan the World Oldest Tortoise Turns 190

Jonathan hasn’t lost his mojo.

The world’s oldest land mammal, a 190-year-old giant Seychelles tortoise named Jonathan, is still living a shell of a life down on the British isle of Saint Helena — a place he was photographed in 1886.

Earlier in January, Jonathan was also named the oldest “chelonian — a category which encompasses all turtles, terrapins and tortoises ever” — by Guinness World Records.

Meet 190-year-old Jonathan, the oldest tortoise to ever live

“Giant tortoises generally live up to around 150 years, so he is doing very well!” Teeny Lucy of the St. Helena Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told PetaPixel.

He first reached his cushy, 140-year home on the South Atlantic island in 1882 as a gift from British colonial administrator and later St. Helena governor Sir William Grey-Wilson, the outlet reported.

“Jonathan was fully grown at that time [of arriving at St. Helena], which would be at least 50 years old, so his hatching year would have been about 1832,” Lucy said about the reptile who has lived to see 40 US presidents and 53 British prime ministers.

Although, “as his age on arrival is a conservative estimate, in all likelihood he is even older,” according to Guinness World Records.

“Some experts have suggested that he may belong to a separate species, or subspecies, of Seychelles tortoise though this debate has yet to be settled conclusively,” the record book reported.

While the exacts of his origin are still unknown, one thing for sure is that age caught up with the senior tortoise.

Jonathan the tortoise may be losing some senses, but he knows his land well.

“He is now mostly blind due to cataracts and has lost his sense of smell, nevertheless he knows his territory so well that he moves about the large paddock and grazes the grass with no problems,” Lucy said.

“We are pretty sure that he knows the sound or feels the pressure of our footsteps and he has a very good appetite,” she added. Hand-fed Jonathan “enjoys carrots, lettuce (his favorite), apples, guava (in season), bananas, cabbage, and pears” once a week on Sundays, Lucy said.

Around the time he was 177, in 2009, Lucy and her team “discovered that his beak that usually scythes the grass was crumbly and soft and that Jonathan was losing weight.”

Jonathan eats a balanced diet about once a week.
Jonathan eats a balanced diet about once a week.AFP via Getty Images

They began giving him extra food on a weekly basis to successfully sharpen his pair of chompers, she said.

Despite these health setbacks, he never lost his slow-moving swagger and is quite social with the island’s other tortoises — David, Fred and Emma — another caretaker said.

“Jonathan still has good libido and is seen frequently to mate with Emma and sometimes Fred — animals are often not particularly gender-sensitive!” Joe, Jonathan’s veterinarian, told Guinness.

Age be damned, Jonathan the tortoise can still get freaky, caretakers say.
Age be damned, Jonathan the tortoise can still get freaky, caretakers say.AFP via Getty Images

When Jonathan isn’t getting it on, he often lives a very sedentary lifestyle just like his erotic companions.

“They do all slow down a lot and spend more time inside their shells or tucked into piles of grass left for them by the gardeners at Plantation House,” Lucy said.

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