It’s not every day that you get to celebrate someone’s 190th birthday; in fact, we’re fairly certain it’s never happened before.
That is, until this past weekend, when Jonathan — the world’s oldest living land mammal and the oldest tortoise in recorded history — turned 190.
The South Atlantic island of St. Helena, where Jonathan has lived since 1882, has been celebrating the world-famous tortoise all year.
While the exact date of Jonathan’s birth is unknown, they chose December 4 as his birthday and held a three-day celebration over the weekend.
Jonathan, who lives in the governor’s mansion on the island, is St. Helena’s most famous resident and biggest celebrity. His image has appeared on stamps and a five pound coin.
“Jonathan is an icon here,” Teeny Lucy, the local SPCA’s chairperson, told The Dodo. “He’s a grand old gentleman who has seen everything.” He arrived on St. Helena as an adult in 1882 and has witnessed generations of people come and go.”
His remarkably long life has earned him two major distinctions: he was officially declared the world’s oldest living land animal by Guinness World Records in 2019, at the age of 187.
Jonathan was also named the world’s oldest tortoise earlier this year. Jonathan was named the “oldest chelonian” by Guinness on January 12, which includes all tortoises, turtles, and terrapins.
He has surpassed the previous record-holder, Tu’i Malila, who lived to be at least 188 years old before dying in 1965.
“Being the oldest land animal in the world, he has almost royal status here,” Lucy added. “He is dignified and interacts in a friendly way as long as people move slowly around him. We are all very fond of him.”
Jonathan is at least 190 years old, and could be much older. His age is estimated based on his arrival in Saint Helena from the Seychelles in 1882, when he was described as “fully mature,” implying he was at least 50 years old. As a result, his birth year was 1832 at the most.
It’s difficult to comprehend how long Jonathan has lived: Andrew Jackson was President of the United States in 1832, and Queen Victoria was the reigning monarch of England. His life spans the Civil War and both World Wars; he lived decades before flight was invented and was already 137 when man first set foot on the moon.
It’s safe to say that if tortoises could talk, Jonathan would have plenty of stories to tell.
Jonathan is still in good health despite being nearly two centuries old. He is blind and deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafen
“His hearing is excellent, and he enjoys human company, and responds well to his vet Joe Hollins’ voice because he associates him with a feast,” the St. Helena Government told Guinness.
“He enjoys bananas, but they tend to clog his mouth.” “Lettuce hearts, though not particularly nutritious, are a favorite,” said Jonathan’s veterinarian, Joe Hollins, adding that the tortoise also enjoys cabbage, cucumber, apples, and other fruits.
Jonathan is also “frequently seen to mate” with his fellow tortoises Emma and Fred, according to Hollins.
The world has changed a lot in the past 190 years, but Jonathan stays the same. He’s brought joy to generations of locals — and perhaps he’ll be around for many years to come.
“He is a local icon, symbolic of persistence in the face of change,” Hollins said.
Jonathan is a true icon, and still looking good for his age! Wishing him many happy and healthy years still ahead!
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