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Jonathan, The World's Oldest Land Animal, Celebrates His Official 190th Birthday

Happy birthday, old sport.

author

Rachael Funnell

author

Rachael Funnell

Digital Content Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Digital Content Producer

clockDec 5 2022, 13:11 UTC
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oldest living land animal

One hundred and ninety never looked so good. Image credit: Luke McKernan via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, edited by IFLScience

Jonathan the tortoise became the oldest tortoise in human record in 2022, being granted the accolade by the Guinness World Records (who recently named the world’s oldest cat) after turning 190. It’s been accepted that he hatched in 1832 based on photographic records, but it wasn't until November of this year that he was finally granted an official birthday.

Jonathan's birthday was declared to be December 4, 1832, by the governor of the British overseas territory Nigel Phillips, Guardian reports. It was celebrated with a three-day party at his home on the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean and damn, that’s a party we wish we’d got an invite to.

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Reptilian pals and local residents were invited to the soiree that was held at the governor’s house complete with a tortoise-friendly birthday cake. A fitting tribute to a creature that’s both the world’s oldest living animal, and the oldest tortoise on human record.

Jonathan is a Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa), and he clawed the prestigious crown from the claws of Tu’i Malila, a radiated tortoise that died at the age of 188 in 1965. Technically, his official record title is oldest chelonian, an order of shelled reptiles that includes all turtles, terrapins, and tortoises.

Without any official documents to work from, the tortoise’s grand old age is an estimation based on an old photograph that shows when he arrived in St Helena from the Seychelles in 1882. In the photo, Jonathan appears to be fully mature and so likely at least 50 years old, suggesting he was born in at least 1832.

His impressive stretch on Earth has seen him march on through 39 US presidents and only narrowly miss meeting Napoleon. His slow pace of life afforded him to hang back in certain pursuits, and it wasn’t until 184 years of living that he had a bath.

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Though he is carrying 190 better than any land animal ever has, time is beginning to take its toll with Jonathon reported to be blind with no sense of smell, but he still has a hearty appetite with favorites including bananas and lettuce hearts.

So, raise a Romaine to the people’s prince on this, the week of his 190th birthday.


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