The world’s oldest living land creature is the turtle, which recently celebrated its 190th birthday. His name is Jonathan and he was born in the early 19th century. Jonathan is a Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa), a subspecies of the Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea).

For the last 140 years, he has lived on the island of St. Helena, which is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. When the turtle arrived on the island, its shell was measured and it was estimated that the turtle was at least 50 years old. As this is an estimate, the turtle may actually be even older than stated. On St. Helena, the turtle was cared for by veterinarian Joe Hollins for several decades and continues to care for it today.

Jonathan (left) with another giant tortoise (1886

A prominent member of the St Helena community

“When you think, if he was hatched in 1832—the Georgian era—my goodness, the changes in the world.

“The World Wars, the rise and fall of the British Empire, the many governors, kings, and queens that have passed, it’s quite extraordinary. And he’s just been here, enjoying himself.

“I do think he’s fabulous, actually. He’s a great animal. And as a vet, what greater privilege is there than to be looking after the oldest known living land animal in the world?

“I mean, how often does that happen—to be able to care for this magnificent animal?”

As a much loved member of his island community, and the most permanent resident, locals have thrown the lucky tortoise a three-day birthday party, where he can feast on all his favorite veggies throughout.”

A celebration and exhibition was held in Jonathan’s honor

A number of posters celebrating Jonathan’s life have been displayed on the island since 2 December. People have the opportunity to visit the Plantation House, the property where Jonathan lives. The exhibition includes not only pictures with Jonathan, but also messages from people who have visited him over the years. The celebration ended with a big birthday cake that was made up of only healthy things. A special stamp was issued for people to buy to commemorate the occasion.

Photo credit: St Helena Tourism