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Jonathan, Guinness World Records’ Oldest Tortoise Ever, Is At Least 190-Years-Old

Written by: Molly Weinfurter
Molly Weinfurter is a writer for iHeartDogs, and she’s passionate about helping animals in need. She volunteers for Bailing Out Benji and a local dog rescue.Read more
| Published on January 31, 2022

Most families wish their pets could live forever, but if you bring home a giant tortoise, they just might! A Seychelles tortoise named Jonathan recently celebrated his 190th birthday, making him the oldest tortoise on record. Seychelles tortoises are a type of Aldabra tortoise, which usually have a lifespan of about 100 years.

Even though Jonathan has surpassed his life expectancy by a long shot, he’s not slowing down anytime soon. He has no problem getting around and enjoying life to the fullest. He outlived his human decades ago and has even been alive during many firsts in history.

Jonathan the oldest tortoise

World’s Oldest Land Animal!

Before Jonathan’s recent birthday, Guinness World Records already labeled him the oldest living land animal. Now that he’s 190, he has also earned the title of “oldest chelonian,” which includes turtles and tortoises.

The previous oldest chelonian was a radiated tortoise named Tu’i Malila, who was at least 188. Tu’i Malila was a gift to the royal family in 1777, and they continued to care for her until she died in 1965.

Close-up of Jonathan the tortoise
Wikimedia Commons

Jonathan was born in 1832, but there’s a good chance that he’s even older than that. In 1882, Jonathan was given to former governor Sir William Grey-Wilson as a gift. Since he was full-grown at the time, they knew he had to be at least 50 years old. Photo evidence confirms his size at the time.

“Jonathan could actually be 200 because the information regarding his arrival on the island is not exact and because there’s no real record of his birth,” said Matt Joshua, head of tourism on St. Helena.

Tortoise at plantation house
Wikimedia Commons

Even though Jonathan’s human died about 100 years ago, the tortoise continues to live at his residence on St. Helena Island. He shares the grounds of a Georgian mansion with three other tortoises named David, Emma, and Fred.

The Life of Jonathan the Tortoise

Jonathan has been alive through many milestones in history, including when the first photograph of a human was taken, when the first telephone call was made, and when the Eiffel Tower was built. If he could talk, he’d have so many stories to tell!

Historical photo of Jonathan the tortoise
Wikimedia Commons

“[Jonathan] enjoys the sun but on very hot days takes to the shade. On mild days, he will sunbathe – his long neck and legs stretched fully out of his shell to absorb heat and transfer it to his core,” said his vet, Joe Hollins.

The giant tortoise spends most of his days eating, sleeping, and mating. His sight and smell aren’t as great as they used to be, so humans often hand feed him. However, his energy hasn’t dwindled. He still regularly mates with the other tortoises, especially Fred and Emma. The sex of the tortoise doesn’t matter to him.

Jonathan the tortoise laying in grass
Wikimedia Commons

Jonathan lives a simple life, but he seems like a very happy tortoise. He’s a celebrity on St. Helena, and many tourists will come to meet him. 190 years might seem really old, but Jonathan continues to enjoy life and make the most of it every day!

Watch Adorable Footage of Jonathan Taking a Bath:

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

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