This tortoise is now the oldest known living animal at 187 years old.
Meet Jonathan. Jonathan is a Seychelles giant tortoise, a species found on the island nation of Seychelles and some of the longest-living species known. The average lifespan of these tortoises is 150 years old, which is double the lifespan of the average American.
Born in Seychelles in 1832, Jonathan was taken from his home in 1882 and brought to the island of St. Helena on the opposite side of the African continent. A British colony, St. Helena is a tiny island in the South Atlantic with a population of barely over 4,500. It’s governor lives at Plantation House, along with a quartet of giant tortoises. One of those tortoises just happens to be Jonathan.
A gift for then-governor William Grey-Wilson, Jonathan has long-since outlived Grey-Wilson and quite a few governors after him. You could argue that St. Helena is really Jonathan’s island at this point.
It’s almost impossible to put into perspective how impossibly old Jonathan is, but we’re going to try using the steady improvements in technology. Jonathan has lived to see the first photograph (1838), the first light bulb (1878), the first car (1885), the first plane (1903), the first atomic bomb (1944), the first man on the moon (1969), the first high-definition television (1996), and the first iPhone (2007).
Teeny Lucy, the chairperson for the local SPCA and Jonathan’s caretaker, describes him as “a grand old gentleman who has seen it all.” Although he doesn’t see much these days: vets believe Jonathan is fully blind and has lost his sense of smell. He still eats just fine and can get around without difficulty using touch and hearing.
“Being the oldest land animal in the world, he has almost royal status here,” Lucy told The Dodo. “He is dignified and interacts in a friendly way as long as people move slowly around him. We are all very fond of him.”
Jonathan’s day typically consists of sunbathing for hours, although in the warmer months he will still seek shelter in the shade.
If he makes it just one more year, he’ll surpass Tu’i Malila, another giant tortoise that lived between 1777 and 1965, as the oldest animal ever.