December 08, 2023

Jonathan the Giant Tortoise Turns 191

It’s almost overwhelming to think of how much change can happen in nearly 200 years and if Jonathan the Giant Tortoise could talk, he would probably have some stories to tell.

The large reptile celebrated his honorary 191st birthday this week and in doing so, broke two of his own Guinness World Record (GWR) titles. Jonathan is officially both the oldest living land animal and the eldest chelonian (the zoological term for turtles, tortoises and terrapins) in the world.

Although, to be fair, he may be far older than we suspect as his exact date of birth is unknown. He was gifted to the governor of St Helena from Seychelles in 1882, with experts estimating that he would have been at least 50 years old when he arrived on the island.

Last year, the current governor of St Helena, Nigel Phillips, granted the giant tortoise the official birthdate of 4 December 1832.

“It is extraordinary to think that this gentle giant has outlived every other living creature on land, including, of course, the whole human race,” Jonathan’s personal veterinarian, Joe Hollins, told GWR shortly before they celebrated the reptile’s birthday this year.

“Jonathan is in good health and all the indications at present make us hopeful that he will reach his third century—if indeed he hasn’t done so already!” Hollins added.

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