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Jonathan the 190-year-old tortoise is officially the oldest tortoise in history

Tortoises might move pretty slow, but that’s just because they have all the time in the world: these magnificent creatures have a remarkably long life span that can reach well over 100 years.

But even for a species that can easily outlive any human, one tortoise has lived one extraordinarily long life: Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise, is believed to be 190 years old.

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Jonathan’s remarkable longevity has put him in the record books: in 2019, when he was 187, he was officially declared the world’s oldest living land animal by Guinness World Records.

As if that wasn’t enough, he now has another Guinness World Record: he’s officially the world’s oldest tortoise ever.

In a press release from January 12, Jonathan was declared by Guinness the “oldest chelonian,” which includes all tortoises, turtles and terrapins.

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He has unseated the previous record-holder, Tu’i Malila, who lived to be at least 188 until its death in 1965.

Jonathan is at least 190 years old, but possibly even older. His age estimate comes from his arrival at Saint Helena from the Seychelles in 1882: he was described as “fully mature,” which means he was at least 50 at the time. Thus, his birth year was 1832, at the latest.

Jonathan (left) with another tortoise in 1886 (Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

It’s hard to even comprehend how long a life Jonathan has lived: In his birth year of 1832, Andrew Jackson was the US president and Queen Victoria was England’s reigning monarch. His life encompasses the Civil War and both World Wars; he lived decades before the invention of flight and was already 137 when man first walked on the moon.

If this old tortoise could talk, he’d certainly have some stories to tell. But instead, he’s just happily continuing to live his life: he still resides in Saint Helena, on the official grounds of the Governor. He’s been a local celebrity across generations.

“Jonathan is an icon here,” Teeny Lucy , the chairperson for the local SPCA, told The Dodo. “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.”

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“Being the oldest land animal in the world, he has almost royal status here,” she 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.”

Despite being nearly two centuries old, Jonathan is still in relatively good shape.

“The Veterinary Section is still feeding him by hand once a week to boost his calories, vitamins, minerals and trace elements, as he is blind and has no sense of smell,” the St. Helena Government told Guinness.

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“His hearing though is excellent and he loves the company of humans, and responds well to his vet Joe Hollins’ voice as he associates him with a feast.”

“He loves banana, but it tends to gum up his mouth. Lettuce hearts, though not very nutritious, are a favourite,” added Jonathan’s vet, Joe Hollins, saying the tortoise also likes cabbage, cucumber, apples and other fruits.

Giant tortoise Jonathan estimated 150 to 200 years at Plantation House St Helena Island

Joe also said that, despite his age, Jonathan still has quite a healthy libido and has plenty of interest in mating with his fellow tortoises.

While the world has gone through plenty of changes over Jonathan’s life (including the invention of the lightbulb…) he’s remained the same beloved old tortoise, content to just keep living the good life.

“He is a local icon, symbolic of persistence in the face of change,” Joe told Guinness.

Congratulations to Jonathan on setting another incredible world record! We hope Jonathan will continue to inspire for decades to come.

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