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World's Oldest Tortoise Gets His First Wash In 184 Years

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Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

clockMar 25 2016, 17:55 UTC
616 World's Oldest Tortoise Gets His First Wash In 184 Years
St Helena Government/YouTube

Jonathan the tortoise – Earth’s oldest known living animal – has had his first bath in 184 years.

The historical scrub-up is in preparation for a royal visit (the identity of this royal is apparently a mystery) to the tortoise's stomping grounds on the south Atlantic island of St Helena. He was helped out by Dr. Joe Hollins, a vet on the tiny British outpost island, who used surgical soap, soft brushes, and a loofah to wash off the decades of dirt from his shell.

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Jonathan, born in 1832, is an Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea) originally born in the Seychelles. He achieved the crown of world’s oldest animal when Harriet, a 175-year-old giant Galápagos tortoise, died in 2005. He turned up on the island when he was 50 years old as a gift from the Seychelles to the governor of St Helena. Since then, he’s become somewhat of a celebrity and even features on some of the island’s coins.

"In the past Jonathan’s keepers had a rather laissez-faire attitude to the tortoises on St Helena and so this is probably his first wash in 184 years," Dr. Hollins told The Telegraph. "He looks so much cleaner and he seemed to enjoy the whole experience."

He added: "Jonathan stood like a statue when I was washing him, I don't know whether that was the vibrations he found soothing or he was thinking 'At last, I've had my first bath!'"

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