In the year 1832, Jonathan the tortoise was just a young turtle.
Back then, the world was very different. There was no such thing as a lamp, and cars wouldn’t be invented for another 50 years. Jonathan, a giant tortoise from Seychelles, lived to see it all.
This weekend, he turned 190 years old. To celebrate, he had a “cake” made of fresh vegetables and was named the world’s oldest known animal. But even though the world around him has changed a lot, Jonathan is still living a calm life on the small island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, where he has lived since the late 1880s.
Teeny Lucy, the head of the local SPCA, is one of his main caregivers. Jonathan lives on the green grounds of the old governor’s palace. Lucy and others bring him fresh vegetables once a week.
Lucy told The Dodo in 2019 that Jonathan is a hero in their town. “He’s an amazing old man who has seen everything. He moved to St. Helena as an adult in 1882 and has seen many people come and go over the years.
Lucy says that many people have been amazed by Jonathan’s long life. His friends on the estate are three other huge tortoises named David, Emma, and Fred. His friend David, 82 years old, is the second-oldest tortoise.
Jonathan is probably blind and has lost his ability to smell, but he gets around pretty well. He usually spends his days basking in the sun, eating grass, and hanging out with his tortoise friends.
One of Jonathan’s vets, Joe Hollins, told the Guinness Book of World Records, “Even though he is old, Jonathan still has a high libido. He is often seen mating with Emma and sometimes Fred.” “Animals don’t always care about what gender they are.”
For someone in his position, his life is pretty quiet. His picture is on the back of the five-penny bills used on the small island.
“As the oldest land animal in the world, he’s almost a king here,” Lucy said. “He is polite and respectful as long as people are careful around him. We all like him a lot.”
Jonathan is a happy, friendly person, but he has had health problems for a few years. Lucy says that all that was needed was a simple change in his diet, and now he is back in great shape and still going strong.
Jonathan being presented with his 190th birthday cake at Plantation House today. Delivered to him by the wonderful staff of Plantation that care for him for a day-to-day.#Jonathan #birthday #sthelenaisland pic.twitter.com/DxnOPYroNT
— St Helena Tourism (@sthelenatourism) December 4, 2022
“We started giving Jonathan food once a week a few years ago to add to his grass diet and make him healthier,” she said. “The island vet did this because his beak, which he uses to cut grass, was broken and crumbly, and he was too cold and had lost weight. All that has changed; now he is as fit as a violin!”
Jonathan has had a lot of caregivers over the years, but it’s clear that he likes them all the same as long as they bring him his favourite snacks of cabbage, cucumber, carrots, and seasonal fruit.
“He knows my voice and the vet’s voice and comes toward us when we talk,” Lucy said. “The food is the best!”