The world's oldest living land animal celebrates his birthday

Dominic Smithers

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The world's oldest living land animal celebrates his birthday

Featured Image Credit: Mike Robinson / Alamy Stock Photo/Snapper Nick / Alamy Stock Photo

The oldest land animal is celebrating a huge milestone birthday this year.

Jonathan the tortoise the the oldest land animal in the world, with his life having spanned three centuries.

Yep, while we humans make a big song and dance out of our 18th and 21st birthdays, John marked his 190th this year.

Experts believe the little guy, who resides on the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, where he moved to back in 1882, was born in 1832.

To put his impressive life into context, Jonathan is older than the electric lightbulb and the motorised car, so he's seen a fair few changes over the years.

Jonathan (left) and his best mate David. Credit: Joe Hollins
Jonathan (left) and his best mate David. Credit: Joe Hollins

According to Guinness World Records, he is the oldest ever chelonian, which encompasses all turtles, terrapins and tortoises.

His best mate, the second oldest tortoise on the island, is called David and is just 80 years old.

The previous oldest chelonian was Tu’i Malila, a tortoise who is thought to have lived to be around 188, having died in 1965.

He was presented to the royal family of Tonga by British explorer Captain James Cook in about 1777.

Joe Hollins is a veterinarian who has cared for Jonathan for the past 13 years.

Speaking to the Washington Post about their relationship, he said: "I take great delight in looking after him.

"It’s a huge responsibility, but an honor and a privilege for a vet to see to the needs of the oldest known living land animal in the world.

Joe with Jonathan. Credit: Joe Hollins
Joe with Jonathan. Credit: Joe Hollins

"While wars, famines, plagues, kings and queens and even nations have come and gone, he has pottered on, totally oblivious to the passage of time.

“Jonathan is symbolic of persistence, endurance and survival and has achieved iconic status on the island."

In recent years, Jonathan, who is now blind, has suffered with a bit of ill health.

Joe recalled: "He was grabbing at dirt and dry leaves and tugging on rank grass. After feeding him for some time, we witnessed a miracle: his beak regrew its sharp edge."

The vet eventually discovered that Jonathan had a vitamin deficiency, which he was able to fix by introducing fresh produce into his diet.

Joe brought Jonathan back to health. Credit: Tina Lucy
Joe brought Jonathan back to health. Credit: Tina Lucy

Fellow caretaker Tina Lucy added: "We started feeding Jonathan on a weekly basis a few years ago to supplement his grass diet and boost his nutrition.

"This was because the island vet realized that his beak was soft and crumbly and that he was too cold and had lost weight. All that has reversed now and he is as fit as a fiddle!

"He knows my voice and he knows the vet’s voice and reacts by walking toward us. It’s all about the food!"

Well, we're glad he's got such a top team around him.

Happy birthday, Jonathan!

Topics: News, Animals, World News, Health, Science

Dominic Smithers
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