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191-Year-Old Tortoise Is The World’s Oldest Land Animal

Xben911, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Jonathan’s Home

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 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

Jonathan (left) with another giant tortoise (1886) (aged 53–54). Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Healthy and Happy

Jonathan exploring the paddock in front of Plantation House (2022). Kevin Gepford, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Image by 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

Joe Hollins feeding Jonathan at the St Helena Plantation House. Joe Hollins, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Want to Learn More About Seychelles Giant Tortoise? Here Are 6 Fun Facts

Kevin Gepford, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Endemic Species

Tourists and travel writers photographing the giant tortoise Jonathan, St Helena. Luke McKernan, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Seychelles giant tortoise is native to the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles, making it one of the largest tortoises in the world and an essential part of the archipelago’s unique ecosystem.

Longevity

Woman feeding giant turtle Seychelles. Photography by Dino Sassi – Marcel Fayon, Photo Eden LTD, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

These tortoises are known for their impressive lifespan, often living over 100 years. Several individuals have been documented to live well over 150 years.

Size and Weight

Some 100,000 giant tortoises (Aldabrachelys gigantea) range across Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. David Stanley from Nanaimo, Canada, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Adult Seychelles giant tortoises can reach lengths of up to 4 feet and weigh as much as 550 pounds, making them one of the largest tortoise species.

Diet

Jerzy Strzelecki, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They are herbivores, primarily feeding on grasses, leaves, and woody plant stems. They also consume fruits and sometimes even carcasses, showcasing a diverse diet.

Conservation Status

SIF, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Seychelles giant tortoise is listed as vulnerable due to habitat loss, climate change, and introduced species. Conservation efforts are in place to protect their populations and habitats.

Reproductive Behavior

Esmeralda Aldabra Giant Tortoise Seychelles. Tribalninja, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Females lay clutches of up to 25 eggs, which incubate for about 8 months before hatching. The hatchlings are independent from birth and must fend for themselves immediately.

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Xben911, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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