Meet Jonathan, the 182-Year-Old Giant Tortoise and Oldest Land Creature Currently Living
News| | By David Clarke
Humans these days tend to live 82 years at the high end of the spectrum and a very lucky few make it into triple digits. If a person makes it to a hundred years or greater it’s considered a great accomplishment, but while we might be the dominant species on this planet, we most definitely don’t hold the title of longest living.
Jonathan the tortoise, for example, has lived longer than even the most fortunate of humans. His life has spanned 182 years, and let’s just say he definitely looks his age.
Jonathan isn’t just any kind of tortoise, he’s one of five giant Seychelles tortoises on the tropic island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. He was hatched in 1832, which means he’s accomplished the incredibly unique feat of living in three separate centuries. He might have only walked a couple miles in that time span, but the number of years he’s seen is simply amazing.
Living a long time is great, but it isn’t without its fair share of challenges. Jonathan struggles with having no sense of smell and being almost completely blind due to cataracts. Despite that, he’s still trudging along, and he’s become possibly the oldest land creature still alive on the planet.
When he was just a wee young tortoise of 50 years old, Jonathan was brought to St. Helena from the Seychelles in 1882 with three other tortoises. He was given the moniker of “Jonathan” in the 1930’s by then governor, Sir Spencer Davis. Officially, he belongs to the government of St. Helena, and he remains on the grounds of the Governor’s residence, the Plantation House, to this day.
Although likely being the oldest land animal still alive, he’s not the oldest tortoise in history. Guinness World Records reports that the all-time record holder for world’s oldest tortoise belongs to Tui Malila who lived till 189 and died in 1965 in Tonga. Another tortoise in Kolkata, India, was believed to have lived to the age of 255 years before he died in 2006, but that is unconfirmed.
Another tortoise named Harriet was reportedly collected by Charles Darwin in the Galapagos Islands during 1835, and her age was estimated at 175 years old before she died in Australia in 2016.
The above photo was taken quite some time ago, and it’s likely that due to his advanced age visitors are asked to avoid sitting on him these days. A fair request for any 182-year-old!
As mentioned, between blindness and lack of smell, Jonathan has his fair share of challenges but he persists in life. One positive that he has going for him is that his hearing remains excellent, so at least he has one sense still intact!
Make sure to share Jonathan’s story with your family and friends! An 182-year-old giant tortoise doesn’t come around every day.