This 187-Year-Old Tortoise Is the World’s Oldest Living Land Animal

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His name is Jonathan, and safe to say, he’s seem some sh*t in his nearly 2 centuries of life.

Me? I actually think living that long would be a serious pain in the butt, but I guess tortoises don’t really get to choose how short or long a time they spend this side of alive.


Jonathan is a rare Seychelles giant tortoise and has exceeded the species’ average lifespan of 150 years by quite a bit – meaning that, since his birth around 1832, he’s lived through 39 U.S. presidents, the Civil War, 2 world wars, and the invention of the lightbulb.


He arrived at his current residence, the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, as a gift for governor William Grey-Wilson around 1882. He’s lived on the grounds of the governor’s mansion ever since, and he now shares the space with three others – Emma (with whom he shares an on-again, off-again romance), David, and Fred (who also receives his occasional affections).

Jonathan is blind from cataracts and seems to have lost his sense of smell, but if he hangs on a bit longer, he’ll surpass Tu’i Malila, the current longest living chelonian (tortoise) in the Guinness Book of World Records. He was 188 when he passed in 1965.


Until then, he’ll continue munching on a fruit and veggie diet provided by local veterinarians and enjoying the pleasures of life still attractive to him.

And until Jonathan no longer able, current governor Lisa Phillips will still occasionally have to venture outside to right a tortoise that’s fallen during a romantic encounter.


She said back in 2017 that rescuing tortoises in dire straights after a particularly fun romp “wasn’t in the job description” when she became governor, but I mean…she can’t just leave them like that. Not when a famous tortoise is going for a world record right on her back lawn.

I guess that’s life among the giant tortoises on Saint Helena, my friends, and it’s surely not the worst thing an island governor has been asked to do as part of their official duties.

I should rather like to see it myself, one day.