The World’s Oldest Living Land Animal Turns 190 Years Old

Jonathan the Tortoise is celebrating his birthday on one of the world’s most remote inhabited islands, St Helena

St Helena’s national treasure, Jonathan the Tortoise will be celebrating his 190th birthday on 2nd – 4th December 2022 on the remote island.

Jonathan the Tortoise is the oldest known living land animal on Earth, and also the oldest chelonian ever recorded. Born in the early 1800s, Jonathan the Seychelles Giant Tortoise has lived on St Helena since 1882: Situated in the midst of the South Atlantic Ocean, the British Overseas Territory is one of the world’s remotest islands.

Jonathan has spent his island life in the grounds of Plantation House, alongside a handful of other tortoises: David, Emma and Fred, all of whom are of course much younger. He has lived through two world wars, watched more than 35 Governors come and go from Plantation House and has watched the island introduce radios, telephones, TVs, internet, cars and an airport.

Jonathan, the world’s oldest living land animal, at the start of 2022, his 190th birthday year, earned another Guinness World Records title! Celebrating his 190th birthday this December, Jonathan is now the oldest tortoise ever.

Jonathan is the island’s most famous permanent resident and to celebrate him turning 190 years old, everyone from across the island will be coming together over three days for a birthday party at the Governor’s House on this momentous occasion.

Joe Hollins, who cared for Jonathan for years as St Helena’s vet and, although now retired, still helps care for him, said:

“When you think, if he was hatched in 1832 – the Georgian era – my goodness, the changes in the world. The world wars, the rise and fall of the British Empire, the many governors, kings and queens that have passed, it’s quite extraordinary. And he’s just been here, enjoying himself.

“I do think he’s fabulous actually, he’s a great animal. And as a vet – what greater privilege is there than to be looking after the oldest known living land animal in the world? I mean, how often does that happen? It is such a privilege to be able to care for this magnificent animal.”

Jonathan’s age is an estimation; shell measurements documented on the back of a photograph taken shortly after his arrival to St Helena show he was fully mature (at least 50 years old) when he arrived in St Helena from the Seychelles in 1882. It is likely that he is even older.

To celebrate this historic milestone for this historic creature, on Friday 2nd December a range of posters celebrating Jonathan’s life, bearing pictures and messages from those who have visited him over the years, across generations of families, will be put on display at the Plantation House Grounds throughout the weekend. Exclusive certificates, signed by the Governor bearing an exclusive image of Jonathan’s footprint, will be available for visitors to pick up throughout the weekend.

On Saturday, a series of activities honouring Jonathan’s birthday, including a chat with the Governor and his wife and a feeding of Jonathan’s favourite veggies, will be live streamed from Plantation House on St Helena Tourism’s Facebook page, so anyone from across the world can help the oldest living animal celebrate his birthday – .

On Sunday, Jonathan’s birthday will be celebrated at an open-air market at Plantation House. An animated video and song dedicated to celebrating Jonathan’s life will premiere, and Jonathan will be given his ‘birthday cake’, crafted entirely out of his favourite healthy foods. A special stamp issue will be on sale, and 190th birthday memorabilia will be available to win from novelty tortoise-themed games.

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