Giant tortoise in South Atlantic just might be world's oldest animal

We'll introduce you to Jonathan, who's between 170-200 years old

Photo provided by St. Helena Tourism
Photo provided by St. Helena Tourism

On the governor’s plantation on the remote island of St. Helena, in the South Atlantic, lives a tortoise named Jonathan -- who just might be the oldest living animal in the world.

Jonathan is believed to be between 170 and 200 years old, island officials said.

“Professor Arthur Lovebridge lived on St. Helena for many years, and in 1962, gave a scientific account of (the) plantation’s tortoises, focusing on Jonathan’s age,” the island says on its tourism webpage. “Lovebridge concluded that Jonathan arrived on the island in 1882, but (he) was unsure as to the age of Jonathan when he was landed at the island.

“Photographic evidence of Jonathan and consequent analysis of his shell size and growth could put him at already around 50 years old when he arrived. Assuming 50 years, Jonathan would now be 186 years old.”

The life expectancy of a giant tortoise is about 150 years, so this actually isn’t too crazy.

But still -- think about it. If Jonathan really is 186 years old, he would have hatched in 1833. The lightbulb didn’t come until 1879. Penicillin wasn’t discovered until 1928. Jonathan was here before cars even existed.

Photo provided by St. Helena Tourism
Photo provided by St. Helena Tourism

The Seychelles Giant Tortoise has seen more than 30 of St. Helena’s governors throughout his years at the plantation. You know that phrase, "if these walls could talk?" We can't help but think, "if this tortoise could talk!" We want to pick his brain.

Like many of us as we age, Jonathan has had his ups and downs in recent years.

His sight and hearing are diminishing, along with the animal’s ability to tear and chew with his horny beak. (Did you know that tortoises don’t have teeth?) St. Helena’s only vet hand-feeds Jonathan regularly.

It's worth mentioning, Jonathan’s in good company. In total, four tortoises live at Plantation House: Jonathan, who is thought to have arrived in 1882, David and Emma, who came in 1969, and Fredrika, who arrived in 1972.

Visitors to the island can take a selfie with Jonathan, so long as they don’t touch him.

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