No Creature Walking the Earth Is Older Than This Tortoise

St. Helena's Jonathan, the oldest giant tortoise ever recorded, is at least 190 years old
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 6, 2022 11:57 AM CST
Oldest Living Land Animal Gets a Big Birthday Bash
This 1886 photo shows giant tortoises on the grounds of St. Helena's Government House. Jonathan is the tortoise on the left.   (Wikimedia Commons)

A three-day birthday bash may seem excessive, but it's not every day you turn 190. Jonathan the giant tortoise, the oldest known living land animal, will celebrate that milestone this weekend at his home on the South Atlantic island of St. Helena. Believed to have hatched in the Seychelles around 1832, he was sent to St. Helena as a gift to future governor Sir William Grey-Wilson in 1882, per the Guardian and Smithsonian. Though Jonathan is certified as the oldest chelonian ever recorded, his exact birthdate isn't clear. Last month, however, Gov. Nigel Phillips gave the elderly (and now blind) tortoise an official birthday of Dec. 4, 1932.

"In all likelihood, he is even older than we think," according to Guinness World Records, which notes "Jonathan's age is an estimation based on the fact that he was fully mature, and hence at least 50 years old" when he arrived on the island. The local celebrity, pictured on the back of St. Helena's 5-pence coin, has lived on the grounds of the governor's mansion ever since, per USA Today. Birthday festivities will kick off Friday at the governor's house, which keeps three other giant tortoises. Jonathan will enjoy "a tortoise-friendly 'birthday cake' and an animated video about his life," while attendees will get a special certificate and opportunity to buy commemorative stamps, per the Guardian. (More giant tortoise stories.)

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