Meet Jonathan, The 187-Year-Old Tortoise, The Oldest-Known Animal In The World

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3 min readApr 16, 2020

Jonathan is one of several giant tortoises that live on the grounds of Plantation House, the residence of the Governor of St Helena. Jonathan is the most famous because he is the oldest — indeed he may be the oldest living land animal on the planet!

Visitors to Plantation House can see the tortoises roaming free on the grounds. He doesn’t reside at his awesome digs alone, he shares the property with a crew of 5 other tortoises. Without a doubt, Jonathan is the oldest of the pack.

Jonathan is still going strong, but he feels the effects of aging. His smell has started to go, along with his eyesight. Surprisingly though, he hasn’t lost his libido and he is rather interested in the youngest female tortoise he lives with.

With an estimated birth year of 1832, the affable reptile has lived through the terms of 39 U.S. presidents, two world wars, and the invention of the light bulb. He came to Saint Helena around 1882, with his age at the time figured to be around 50 years old. He was intended to be a gift to the governor of the Overseas British Territory at the time, William Grey-Wilson, and has lived on the grounds of the governor’s mansion ever since.

On sunny days, he usually stretches his long neck and legs out of his shell and enjoys the sun. But if the weather is cold, he digs into leaf piles or grass clippings and stays there all day.

Once a week, Jonathan also enjoys his favourite foods which include carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, apples, and bananas.

Jonathan’s vet warns, “In truth, he could die any day, but we obviously hope to extend his life as long as humanely possible. When the day comes, it will be an international news story.” Long live Jonathan the Tortoise!

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