Tortoise believed to be oldest land animal on Earth turns 188 years old

by Bryan Brammer · Jul 20th, 2020 3:08 pm

Last Updated Jul 29th, 2020 at 10:28 pm

On the small volcanic tropical island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean, a Seychelles giant tortoise — who is believed to be the oldest land animal on Earth — just celebrated its 188nd birthday.

Jonathan the tortoise was presumably born around 1832, three decades before the start of the American Civil War.

He was brought to the remote island in 1882 as a 50-year-old adult tortoise as a gift to the British territory's then-governor William Grey-Wilson.

Although Jonathan started having some health issues a few years ago due to his diet, he has bounced back and is still in good health, according to his veterinarian Joe Hollins.

"As befits his age, Jonathan is gentle and enjoys the company of people. Although mostly blind due to cataracts, he has very good hearing and responds especially to his name at feeding time," Hollins told Guinness Book of World Records. "He also has a fascination with the sounds of tennis when the paddock court is in use."

The average life span for a Seychelles tortoise is around 150 years. According to The Dodo, there are only an estimated 80 remaining in the world.

Jonathan is "an icon" on St. Helena, his current caretaker Teeny Lucy said. His portrait is even on Saint Helena's 5-pence coin.

"Being the oldest land animal in the world, he has almost royal status here. He is dignified and interacts in a friendly way as long as people move slowly around him," Lucy said. "We are all very fond of him."


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