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What’s So Special About Jonathan the Giant Tortoise?

Jonathan the Giant Tortoise is a marvel of nature, a living testament to endurance. At over 190 years old, he's the oldest known land animal, symbolizing resilience and the mysteries of longevity. His life offers invaluable insights into conservation and the history of his species. What secrets does Jonathan hold about the past and survival? Join us to uncover his story.

The Seychelles giant tortoise now known as Jonathan hatched sometime around 1832, and at about 50 years old, he and three other tortoises were relocated from the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean to Saint Helena, a speck of an island in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Remarkably, the 440-pound (200-kg) Jonathan is still motoring around the grounds of the St. Helena governor’s residence, known as Plantation House. He’ll turn 190 this year, making him the world's oldest living land animal, and the oldest (verified) tortoise to ever live. “To be honest, I suspect he’s older, but we can never know,” said Joe Hollins, the veterinarian who cares for Jonathan.

190 years young:

  • In 1882, Jonathan and his companions were presented to the governor of St. Helena, Hollins said, explaining that “it was quite traditional for (tortoises) to be used as diplomatic gifts around the world, if they weren’t eaten first.”

  • The previous longevity record was held by a 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.

  • According to Hollins, Jonathan is blind and has lost his sense of smell. But he still likes to eat, and is hand-fed a healthy diet of carrots, cucumbers, apples, and bananas. Hollins uses welder’s gloves to protect his fingers from Jonathan’s sharp beak.

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    • Jonathan the giant tortoise is 190 years old – he is the oldest living land animal and the oldest tortoise ever.
      By: Luke McKernan
      Jonathan the giant tortoise is 190 years old – he is the oldest living land animal and the oldest tortoise ever.