Jonathan, The Giant Tortoise, Is The World’s Oldest-Known Animal

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The year was 1832 when Jonathan the tortoise was only a tiny hatchling.

Jonathan, The Giant Tortoise, Is The World’s Oldest-Known Animal

The year was 1832 when Jonathan the tortoise was only a tiny hatchling.


The world used to be a very different place back then; cars were still half a century away and the lightbulb had yet to be invented.


Yet Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise, lived to see that all. At around 187 years old, he is now the world's oldest-known animal — and he’s living a relaxing life on the remote island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, where he has been since the late 1880s.


Jonathan, The Giant Tortoise, Is The World’s Oldest-Known Animal

Teeny Lucy


Teeny Lucy, the chairperson for the local SPCA, is one of his primary caretakers. The tortoise lives on the lush grounds of the historic governor’s mansion, where Lucy and some others visit with him every week with fresh vegetables.


“Jonathan is an icon here,” said Lucy. “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.”


Jonathan, The Giant Tortoise, Is The World’s Oldest-Known Animal

Jonathan (left) with caretakers back when he first arrived to the island | Wikipedia


Jonathan’s longevity has surprised a lot of people, Lucy said. He is the oldest member of his companions at the mansion, that consist of three other giant tortoises; he is friends with 80-year-old David the second-oldest tortoise is his friend.


Jonathan is likely fully blind, yet he still makes his way around quite well. He typically spends his days lounging in the sun, munching on grass and relaxing with his other tortoise friends. It is a very calm life for somebody of such status; he is so popular that his portrait is on the back of the five pence coin of the small island.


Jonathan, The Giant Tortoise, Is The World’s Oldest-Known Animal

Jonathan (left) with his friend David | Teeny Lucy


“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.”


Jonathan is undoubtedly a happy and social guy — but some years ago, he began to have medical issues. Luckily, all it took was a little diet change, and now he is back in great shape and still going strong.


“We started feeding Jonathan on a weekly basis a few years ago to supplement his grass diet and boost his nutrition,” said Lucy. “This was because the island vet realized that his beak (that he scythes grass with) was soft and crumbly and that he was too cold and had lost weight. All that has reversed now, and he is as fit as a fiddle!”


Jonathan, The Giant Tortoise, Is The World’s Oldest-Known Animal

Lucy feeding Jonathan | Teeny Lucy


Though Jonathan has certainly seen his fair share of different caretakers over the years, it is clear he appreciates them all the same — as long as they keep bringing him his favorite snacks.


Jonathan, The Giant Tortoise, Is The World’s Oldest-Known Animal

Jonathan in front of the governor's home | Teeny Lucy


“He knows my voice, and he knows the vet’s voice and reacts by walking toward us,” Lucy added. “It’s all about the food!”

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Thinking Humanity: Jonathan, The Giant Tortoise, Is The World’s Oldest-Known Animal
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