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190 years old Jonathan continues to be the world’s oldest tortoise

Jonathan, the tortoise who is 190 years old and lives on St. Helena island (Pics. Courtesy Twitter/@MissTrade)

He is a star in his own right as he celebrates his 190th birthday in 2022 and remains the oldest living being in the reptile order that includes turtles, tortoises and terrapins in the world. Meet Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise who stays in St. Helena, South Atlantic Island which is part of British Overseas Territory.

As per a report in smithsonianmag.com, in the past the oldest living tortoise was Tu'i Malila who died in 1965 at the age of 188 years. This was a Madagascar radiated tortoise which was gifted to Tonga's royal family in 1777.

Arriving in St. Helena in 1882, Jonathan was a gift to Sir William Grey-Wilson who became Governor of the island. From then on, grazing and spending his time in the Plantation House gardens located in the Governor’s residence, the reptile has seen 31 governors hold office. Continuing his stay there he now has three other tortoises, Emma, David and Fred for company.

One is not certain about Jonathan’s age since as per a letter on his arrival on the island from Seychelles Archipelago he was described as “fully grown” placing him at least 50 years old. So if he had hatched in 1832, the celebrity is much older than he is credited to be.

Veterinarian Joe Hollins who has been looking after Jonathan for the last 13 years, talking to the Washington Post said:  "To be honest, I suspect he's older, but we can never know.”

Reporting for Guinness World Records, Sanj Atwal said that the image of the reptile shot between 1882 and 1886 shows him as a fully-grown tortoise at the Plantation House munching grass, thus giving credence to the tortoise’s suspected age.

Once found in abundance on different archipelagos of the Indian Ocean, these creatures have become extinct. The reason being sailors used them for food on ships.  Hollins informed the media that crews on the ships used them as they did not require food or water for days. She told the Washington Post: "It was quite traditional for [tortoises] to be used as diplomatic gifts around the world if they weren't eaten first. Apparently, they were utterly delicious.”

Jonathan has seen a lot happening in the world including snapping of the first photograph of a person in 1838, invention of incandescent lightbulb in 1878, the two World Wars and Neil Armstrong’s becoming the first man to walk on the Moon in 1969.

Commenting on this, Hollins remarked: "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."

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With age, Jonathan has lost his sense of smell and is blind but loves to eat, sunbath, sleep and mate.

Hollins, who feeds him by hand, disclosed that his favourite food includes apples, cabbage, bananas and carrots.

To make his 190th birthday special, officials on the island plan to issue a series of commemorative stamps. Also those visiting him will receive a certificate showing the image of his first known footprint.