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  Oldest living animal- world record set by Jonathan the tortoise
  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 photo)

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 176.

“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 anyway.

  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    (enlarge photo)

  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:
 Oldest living polar bear-world record set by Debby

  Oldest living tree-world record set by a Swedish spruce

  more  Nature world records

  Thursday, December 4, 2008

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