Did you know there is a tortoise that is 190 years old? Jonathan the tortoise is estimated to have hatched in 1832. This estimate is based on a letter written in 1882, when Jonathan arrived on St. Helena, a remote island in the south Atlantic under British control. The tortoise was originally captured from the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. In the letter, Jonathan was described as "fully grown." When it comes to giant tortoises, "fully grown" generally means at least 50 years old. So, it's quite possible Jonathan is older than 190.
To this day, Jonathan is still wandering around on the grounds of the governor's residence on St. Helena.
Again, let's put this into perspective. Jonathan has lived on the Governor's lawn while 31 different St. Helena governors have come and gone. Jonathan was alive when Andrew Jackson was president of the US, and through the terms of the next 39 US presidents. The very first automobile, called the "Motorwagen," was patented in 1886 by Karl Benz. Jonathan was at least 54 years old then. January 1, 1983 is considered the official birthday of the Internet. Jonathan was at least 152 on that day.
Although there are aquatic animals that probably live longer (sharks, for example), Jonathan may be the oldest terrestrial animal alive today.
Jonathan is now losing his eyesight, but he has a dedicated veterinarian who feeds him by hand. In spite of his age, Jonathan still mates with the other tortoises living on the grounds of the governor's residence, including the one named Fred. Jonathan doesn't seem to care about minor details like gender.
The photo below was taken in 1886, four years after Jonathan arrived at the Governor's residence. Jonathan is the tortoise on the left.
- 1886 photo of Jonathan the tortoise - Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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