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Meet The World’s Oldest Land Animal, A 191-Year-Old Tortoise

Jonathan - oldest living land animal
Image Credit: Luke McKernan - Jonathan, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=108220564

Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise, is a living legend. Born around 1832, Jonathan is 191 years old and has seen the world change in unimaginable ways. His incredible lifespan makes him the oldest known living land animal on Earth. Today, he resides in the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Seychelles giant tortoise
Jonathan in front of the plantation house. Credit: Kevstan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92091906

Jonathan’s Home

Jonathan was already a mature tortoise when he was brought to Saint Helena from the Seychelles in 1882. Since then, he’s become an integral part of the island’s history, living through the terms of over 30 governors. He’s a local celebrity, not just for his age but also for his enduring spirit.

Through History

When Jonathan was born, Queen Victoria had just begun her reign. He has lived through numerous historical events and technological advancements, from the invention of the telephone to the rise of the internet. His presence is a living connection to a time that most can only read about in history books.

Despite his age, Jonathan remains active and healthy. He’s become a beloved figure in Saint Helena. Visitors to the island often stop to admire him. He continues to enjoy the company of his fellow tortoises.

An Icon

St. Helena 5 Pence coin
Credit: J. Daniel Clements

Jonathan’s significance extends beyond his impressive age. He’s a reminder of the importance of conservation and the need to protect endangered species. Seychelles giant tortoises, once common, now face threats from habitat loss and other human activities. Jonathan’s continued survival is a testament to the resilience of nature when given the chance to thrive.

In recent years, Jonathan has attracted global attention. He’s been featured in various media, from BBC Radio to Scholastic Action Magazine. His image even graces the reverse of the Saint Helena five-pence coin. But perhaps more importantly, Jonathan has become a symbol of hope and continuity in a rapidly changing world.

At 191 years old, Jonathan is not just a tortoise; he’s a treasure, a living link to our past, and a hopeful symbol for the future.

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