Jonathan the Tortoise: World’s oldest living land animal celebrates 191st birthday 

n this file photo taken on October 20, 2017, Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise, believed to be the oldest reptile living on earth, crawls around.
n this file photo taken on October 20, 2017, Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise, believed to be the oldest reptile living on earth, crawls around. Copyright AFP
By Charlotte Elton
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St Helena’s national treasure, who predates the telephone, is in good health and expected to reach his third century.


The world’s oldest living land animal - a Seychelles giant tortoise named Jonathan - has just celebrated his 191st birthday.

Jonathan’s estimated 1832 birth year predates the invention of the postal stamp, the telephone, and the photograph.

The iconic creature lived through the US civil war, most of the reign of Queen Victoria, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, and two world wars.

But the giant tortoise - who has lived on the island of Saint Helena since 1882 - has taken it all in his stride.

He’s even found time for romance, developing a 26 year partnership with a fellow male tortoise.

When is Jonathan the Tortoise’s birthday?

Jonathan is not only the world’s oldest living land animal, but he is the oldest chelonian - a type of reptile class including tortoises, turtles, and terrapins - ever recorded.

In St Helena, he is a national treasure, featuring on the reverse of the local five pence coin.

Now blind and without a sense of smell, he spends his days roaming free in the grounds of the Governor’s house.

“Jonathan is in good health and all the indications at present make us hopeful that he will reach his third century - if indeed he hasn’t done so already!” his vet Joe Hollins told the Guinness World Records.

His age is an estimate, based on the fact that he was fully mature (and hence at least 50) when he arrived on the island in 1882.

“People often ask us for the date of Jonathan’s birthday. The answer is we don’t know,” the St Helena Island website reads.

“[But] there is precedent for this arbitrary assignment of a celebration date. Christians commemorate the birthday of Jesus on 25 December, but there is nothing to suggest that this is his actual birthday.”

What has Jonathan’s life been like?

Age is no barrier to living a full life - and amorous 191 year old Jonathon the Tortoise is living proof.

Jonathan became extremely irritable in the 1980s due to loneliness. He settled down after forming a relationship with a mate, Frederica, in 1991 - but they never had any offspring.

26 years later, the mystery was solved: Frederica turned out to be male.

Jonathan still has a ‘good libido’ according to his long-time vet.

“[He] is seen frequently to mate with Emma and sometimes Fred - animals are often not particularly gender-sensitive!” Hollins said.

And the venerable old-timer is showing "no signs of slowing down" at life.


“In spite of losing his sense of smell and being virtually blind from cataracts, his appetite remains keen,” Hollins told the Guinness World Records, who keep up to date with Jonathan's movements.

“He is still being hand-fed once a week with a fortifying helping of fruit and vegetables by a small, dedicated team. This not only supplements his calories but provides those essential drivers of his metabolism: vitamins, minerals, and trace elements."

Inventions that Jonathan is older than

5. The revolver, 1836

Samuel Colt patented the first commercially successful revolver in 1836. The guns were used in wars like the US civil war (1860-64).

4. The photograph, 1839

The first ‘daguerreotype’ images were printed in 1839. Since then, 13 trillion photos have been taken.

3. First powered airship, 1852

The hot-air balloon was the first powered airship. It was a hydrogen filled balloon powered by a steam engine.


2. The commercial lightbulb, 1879

Electricity was ‘discovered’ by Benjamin Franklin in 1752, when he realised that sparks from lightning strikes could generate power. But the lightbulb wasn’t commercialised until 1879.

1. The first modern bicycle, 1885

The penny-farthing - the cumbersome original bicycle with a huge back wheel - was invented in the early 19th century. But the first modern bike with a chain was developed around 1885.

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