Do you know anyone born in the year 1832 who lives to this day? If you don’t, then let us introduce you to the world’s oldest-known land animal – Jonathan the giant tortoise.
The world looked very different in 1832 – the lightbulb has yet to be invented, and cars were half a century away from being created. But Jonathan lived to see all of it and so much more, as he is estimated to be around 187 years old.
He is from the volcanic island of St. Helena located in the South Atlantic Ocean, where he lives in the Plantation House, the governor’s official residence. Jonathan first came in the island in 1882 when he was just 50 years old, as a gift to a governor at that time named William Grey-Wilson.
One of his main caretakers is Teeny Lucy, the chairperson for the local SPCA. Throughout the week, Lucy and several others visit Jonathan in the governor’s mansion to feed him with fresh veggies.
Lucy told The Dodo: “Jonathan is an icon here. He is a grand old gentleman who has seen it all. He landed on St. Helena in 1882 as a fully grown adult; he has seen generations of people coming and going.”
Lucy said that Jonathan’s long life has surprised a lot of people. He lives with his three other tortoise buddies in the mansion, the second oldest of them being his 80-year-old friend, David.
Despite his longevity, Jonathan isn’t spared from age-related problems. His hearing is excellent, but he’s likely fully blind due to cataracts and already lost his sense of smell. A few years ago, he also experienced other medical issues, but with a little change in diet, he got back on track and is still going strong.
Now, he is on a strict diet of fruits and vegetables. Among them are carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, apples, and pears.
“We started feeding Jonathan on a weekly basis a few years ago to supplement his grass diet and boost his nutrition,” Lucy said. “This was because the island vet realized that his beak (that he scythes grass with) was soft and crumbly and that he was too cold and had lost weight. All that has reversed now and he is as fit as a fiddle!”
Jonathan lives a very calm life, which is suitable for someone as mature as he is. He typically spends his days lounging in the sun, munching on the grass, and chilling with his other tortoise buddies.
“Being the oldest land animal in the world, he has almost royal status here,” Lucy said. “He is dignified and interacts in a friendly way as long as people move slowly around him. We are all very fond of him.”
Jonathan is so popular that he is listed as one of the seven wonders of St. Helena, and his portrait even appears at the back of the island’s five-pence coin.
The giant tortoise has seen generations of people come and go and has been handled by different caretakers, but he loves them all the same – especially when they bring him his favorite snacks!
“He knows my voice and he knows the vet’s voice and reacts by walking toward us,” Lucy said. “It’s all about the food!”
Watch the video below to learn more about Jonathan and his life in St. Helena.
We hope that Jonathan enjoys more years in his life!