Oldest living animal- world record set by Jonathan
St Helena Island, UK -- Jonathan, a Giant
Land Tortoise, the sole survivor of three tortoises that arrived
on St Helena Island in 1882, has at least 176 yrs-setting
the world record for the
Oldest living animal.
Photo: Jonathan the tortoise: at a possible
age of 175-plus he is the world's oldest
living animal / BNPS (enlarge
A spokesman for the St Helena tourist board
said: “Jonathan is the sole survivor of three tortoises that
arrived on St Helena Island in 1882. “He was already mature
and at least 50 when he got here. Therefore he’s at least
“He lives in the grounds of Plantation
House — the governor’s residence — with five much younger
tortoises, including three females. “He feeds on the grass
of the main paddock and is still very active despite his age.”
Jonathan is treated as a celebrity, and for good
reason: during his remarkable lifespan he has seen the coronation
of eight British monarchs, from George IV to Elizabeth II,
and a staggering 50 prime ministers.
These days he hangs out with fellow land tortoises
David, Speedy, Emma, Fredricka and Myrtle, who are much younger;
and according to locals, he still has the energy to mate regularly
with the three females.
He is owned by the Government of St Helena and
lives in the grounds of Plantation House, the governor’s residence.
One reason giant tortoises live so long is their
armour, which defends them against predators, and that on
the islands where they evolved they did not have any predators
British expert Dr Henry Nicholls said: “Giant
Land Tortoises live a hell of a lot longer than humans and,
due to this, you need to have several generations of people
keeping reliable documents to provide 100 per cent proof of
its age. “About 200 is a really good age for a giant tortoise.
They reach adulthood at 20.”
Photo: Jonathan the giant tortoise photographed
on St Helena in 1900, when he was already 70 years old /BNPS
It is thought Jonathan was brought to St Helena
from the Seychelles. His story came to light after his photograph
was discovered among a collection of Boer War images taken
by LA Innes who had a studio in the island’s capital Jamestown.
The pictures were recently sold for £4,000
at an auction near Winchester, Hants. Further investigation
by the auctioneers revealed the tortoise in the picture was
Jonathan who was still alive.
St Helena has a population of more than 4,200.
Its greatest claim to fame came when Napoleon was exiled there
in 1815. He was held prisoner there until his death in 1821
and is buried there.
Another tortoise, Timothy, who was a ship's mascot
in the Crimean War, died at his home at Powderham Castle,
near Exeter, Devon, in 2004, aged 160. The castle's Rose Garden
had been his home since 1935.
The previous oldest
tortoise was widely thought to be Harriet, a giant Galapagos
Land tortoise who died aged 175 in Australia three years ago.
Related world records:
living polar bear-world record set by Debby
living tree-world record set by a Swedish spruce
Thursday, December 4, 2008