When Jonathan the tortoise was born, the world was a very different place. Andrew Jackson was president, the first photograph was made only a few years prior, and the typewriter had yet to be invented. The year was 1832.
This year, Jonathan became the oldest living land animal. The Seychelles giant tortoise turned 187 years old in 2019 and puts him just one year away from taking the title of oldest chelonian ever.
According to Guinness World Records, the current title holder, Tu’i Malila, reached 188 years old before dying in 1965.
In 1882, Jonathan was brought to St. Helena, a remote island in the South Atlantic, where he currently resides. He was brought there with three other tortoises when he was estimated to be 50 years old.
“Jonathan is an icon here,” Teeny Lucy , the chairperson for the local SPCA, told The Dodo. “He is a grand old gentleman who has seen it all. He landed on St. Helena in 1882 as a fully grown adult; he has seen generations of people coming and going.”
As those who live on the island come and go, Jonathan remains.
He lives on the grounds of the Plantation House, the official residence of the Governor of St. Helena, and enjoys wandering around and hanging with his 80-year-old tortoise friend, David.
“Being the oldest land animal in the world, he has almost royal status here,” Lucy said. “He is dignified and interacts in a friendly way as long as people move slowly around him. We are all very fond of him.”
Despite his archaic age, Jonathan is quite healthy. Several years ago, his caretakers realized his beak was in poor condition and he had lost weight, so they began to supplement his diet by feeding him.
“All that has reversed now and he is as fit as a fiddle!”
187 years?! Jonathan has lived an incredible life and I hope he’s able to live many, many more years.