Jonathan, the Seychelles giant tortoise, is having the biggest animal party this weekend as he prepares to ring his 190th birthday on Sunday in Saint Helena which has been his home since 1822, where the defeated French emperor Napoleon died a year before.
Since the time he came as a gift to the south Atlantic island’s governor, Jonathan has garnered a lot of fame and made his place in the Guinness World Records as the oldest living land animal along with the oldest chelonian, which is an order that comprises of terrapins, tortoises and turtles. Living a celebrity life, he was also featured on the reverse side of the local five-pence coin.
Based on shell measurements, it is believed that Jonathan was hatched around 1832 and was brought from Seychelles to the UK overseas territory 50 years later.
“Jonathan’s age is an estimation based on the fact that he was fully mature, and hence at least 50 years old when he arrived in Saint Helena from Seychelles in 1882. In all likelihood, he is even older than we think,” the Guinness World Records notes.
He has been living a comfortable retirement life in Plantation House, which is the St Helena governor’s official residence, where different events are being organised all weekend, which includes the issue of a special stamp, to mark his birthday.
The birthday celebrations will end with a “birthday cake”, which will be cooked using favourite food items of Jonathan. As per his caretakers, the oldest living tortoise has a special love for lettuce, carrots, pears, cucumber and apples.
“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, and the many governors, kings and queens that have passed, it’s quite extraordinary. And he’s just been here, enjoying himself,” Jonathan’s main care taker and retired veterinarian Joe Hollins said.
Living through such historic world events, the old Jonathan is now covered in wrinkles, has no sense of smell and is blind with cataracts. After his precise birth date remained unknown for so many years, the governor of British overseas territory Nigel Phillips finally took the step of granting him an official birthday on December 4, 1832, in November of this year.
While the residents of Saint Helena continue to pray for Jonathan’s long life, the authorities have already planned to preserve the shell of the oldest chelonian for posterity after his demise.