The world’s oldest living land animal? At age 190, it’s Jonathan the tortoise.
This great article from the Washington Post highlights Jonathan and his longevity.
Jonathan has spent most of his life wandering (albeit slowly) with three other land tortoises around the grounds of the St. Helena governor’s residence, Plantation House. Jonathan is estimated to have hatched in 1832, according to a letter that mentions he arrived “fully grown” on St. Helena in 1882 from the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, he said. “Fully grown” in turtle context meant at least 50 years, Hollins said.
A photo taken between 1882 and 1886 shows Jonathan grazing at Plantation House, where he’d been presented to the governor of St. Helena as a gift, according to Hollins.
“It was quite traditional for [tortoises] to be used as diplomatic gifts around the world, if they weren’t eaten first,” he said, noting that they were harvested by ship crews because they were stackable and didn’t need food or water for days.
The tortoise has seen 31 St. Helena governors come and go and was likely alive for President Andrew Jackson’s second inauguration in 1833, as well as the inaugurations of the next 39 U.S. presidents.
It isn’t unusual for giant land tortoises to live up to 150 years, said Hollins, but Jonathan has endured longer than most people expected.The previous known longevity record was held by a radiated tortoise named Tu’i Malila, reportedly given to Tonga’s royal family in 1777. When Tu’i Malila died in 1965, she was about 188 years old, according to Guinness World Records.