Meet Jonathan, A 190-year-old Jonathan Is The Oldest Tortoise Ever Photographed In 1886 And Today

It’s a known fact that humans outlive most animals. But tortoises are definitely an exception, and one of them was actually able to reach the ripe age of 190 Jonathan. The tortoise currently lives in the island of Saint Helena, Seychelles, and resides with the governor at the Plantation House.

Born circa 1832 – five years prior to the coronation of Queen Victoria – Jonathan the tortoise is due to turn 190 years old in 2022. That makes him the oldest-known land animal alive today.

The elderly Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantic hololissa) was already the Guinness World Record holder for the oldest living land animal, but now he is officially the oldest turtle or tortoise ever recorded.

He beat previous record-holder Tu’i Malila, a radiated tortoise (Astrochelys radiata) that lived to be at least 188 years old before dying in 1965.

Jonathan lives on St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic Ocean. “He is a local icon, symbolic of persistence in the face of change,” Joe Hollins, Jonathan’s veterinarian, told Guinness World Records.

In his lifetime, Jonathan has lived through two world wars, the Russian Revolution, seven monarchs on the British throne, and 39 US presidents.

His estimated year of birth also predates the release of the Penny Black, the first postage stamp (1840), the building of the first skyscraper (1885), and the completion of the Eiffel Tower (1887) – the tallest iron structure.

Other human milestones to have taken place in his long life include the first photograph of a person (1838), the first incandescent light bulb (1878), and the first powered flight (1903).

Now the oldest animal in the world – among terrestrial animals – Jonathan has outlived the oldest person ever by around 65 years. The greatest authenticated age for a human is a “mere” 122 years 144 days, achieved by Jeanne Calment (1875–1997) from France.

Although Jonathan is still lively and full of energy, signs of aging have been observed by doctors, and his sense of sight and smell is slowly getting weaker. Dr. Hollins feeds Jonathan special food with higher calories on a weekly basis, since he doesn’t eat enough grass anymore.

Although originating from Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, Jonathan has resided on the remote island of St Helena in the South Atlantic since 1882.

St Helena is perhaps best known for being the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte – who was exiled here after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The banished emperor and Jonathan would never have met, though, as the former died more than six decades prior to the arrival of this record-breaking reptile.

When Jonathan was brought to St Helena, he was already fully grown. Based on known data for this species, that would indicate he was about 50 years of age at the time (hence his estimated birth year of 1832 to make him the longest-lived animal on land). Jonathan was gifted to the then-governor of the Overseas British territory, William Grey-Wilson (in office 1890–97), and he has lived at the governor’s residence ever since.

Jonathan’s longevity may be unmatched on land, but there are longer-living animals in the water. For example, Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) have an estimated maximum life span of at least 272 years, and Hydra, a group of small jellyfish-like invertebrates, continually regenerate their cells and don’t seem to age at all.

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