Jonathan is the oldest tortoise ever

Happy Birthday, Jonathan!


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This year, an old tortoise named Jonathan has turned 190, becoming the oldest tortoise ever, earning a Guinness World record title.

Estimated to be born in 1832, Jonathan has lived through two world wars, the Russian Revolution, seven monarchs on the British throne, and 39 US presidents.

He officially earned the record title for the oldest chelonian – a category that encompasses all turtles, terrapins, and tortoises.

He arrived in St Helena from Seychelles in 1882, when he was at least 50 years old. His age, at that time, was an estimation based on the fact that he was fully mature. Further evidence of his age came from an old photograph captured between 1882 and 1886. The picture showed a fully-grown Jonathan grazing on some grass in the garden of Plantation House.

Jonathan (left) c.1882-86, on the grounds of Plantation House, St Helena. Image: Guinness World Records Limited

Jonathan spent most of his life at the residence of the Governor of St Helena. In his lifetime, Jonathan is blind and can’t smell. But, he is still grazing on the grounds of the governor of St. Helena’s residence, where he lives with fellow giant tortoises David, Emma, and Fred.

As per an update from the St Helena Government, “Jonathan has come through the winter well. He grazes well now but is unaware of food if we place it on the ground.”

“The Veterinary Section is still feeding him by hand once a week to boost his calories, vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, as he is blind and has no sense of smell.”

“His hearing though is excellent, and he loves the company of humans and responds well to his vet Joe Hollins’ voice as he associates him with a feast.”

According to vet Joe, “Jonathan enjoys the sun but on very hot days takes to the shade. On mild days, he will sunbathe – his long neck and legs stretched fully out of his shell to absorb heat and transfer it to his core.”

“When it’s cold, the world’s oldest tortoise prefers to dig himself into leaf mould or grass clippings and remain there all day.”

“Despite his age, Jonathan still has good libido and is seen frequently to mate with Emma and sometimes Fred – animals are often not particularly gender-sensitive!”

“Among Jonathan’s favorite foods are cabbage, cucumber, carrot, apple, and other seasonal fruits.”

“He loves banana, but it tends to gum up his mouth. Lettuce hearts, though not very nutritious, are a favorite.”