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Jonathan the Tortoise turns 191! The world’s oldest living land animal predates the invention of the telephone, the photograph and the postal stamp – experts are ‘hopeful’ he will ‘reach his third century’


  • The tortoise is thought to have reached another milestone birthday this month  

A Seychelles giant tortoise named Jonathan as turned 191, with the land animal officially predating the invention of the telephone, the photograph and the postal stamp. 

Jonathan is thought to have been born in 1832, which would mean he has lived through a wealth of world events including the US civil war, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, two world wars and the majority of the reign of Queen Victoria

He is also the oldest chelonian ever recorded. 

Jonathan lives on the island of Saint Helena, where he is a national treasure, featuring on the local five pence coin.  

The animal has spent the majority of his life on the British Overseas Territory, one of the world’s most remote islands.

Jonathan pictured at his 190th milestone birthday last year

Jonathan pictured at his 190th milestone birthday last year 

Vet Joe Hollins told the Guinness World Records: 'Jonathan is in good health and all the indications at present make us hopeful that he will reach his third century - if indeed he hasn't done so already!'

Vet Joe Hollins told the Guinness World Records: ‘Jonathan is in good health and all the indications at present make us hopeful that he will reach his third century – if indeed he hasn’t done so already!’

Pictured, Jonathan in an image taken in around 188

Pictured, Jonathan in an image taken in around 1886

Jonathan lives in the grounds of Plantation House alongside three much younger tortoises

Jonathan lives in the grounds of Plantation House alongside three much younger tortoises

He lives in the grounds of Plantation House alongside three much younger tortoises David, Emma and Fred.

He has witnessed more than 35 governors come and go from Plantation House and has seen the island introduce radio, telephones, TVs, internet, cars and an airport.

Now blind and without his sense of smell, he spends his days roaming the grounds he has called home for decades. 

Vet Joe Hollins told the Guinness World Records: ‘Jonathan is in good health and all the indications at present make us hopeful that he will reach his third century – if indeed he hasn’t done so already!’ 

‘In spite of losing his sense of smell and being virtually blind from cataracts, his appetite remains keen.

‘He is still being hand-fed once a week with a fortifying helping of fruit and vegetables by a small, dedicated team. This not only supplements his calories but provides those essential drivers of his metabolism: vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.’

According to the St Helena Island website, no one is certain of Jonathan’s birthday, but it is thought he was around aged 50 when he arrived on the island. 

Jonathon has had help keeping clean and healthy from the island's retired vet Joe Hollins

Jonathon has had help keeping clean and healthy from the island’s retired vet Joe Hollins

Jonathan has witnessed more than 35 governors come and go from Plantation House and has seen the island introduce radio, telephones, TVs, internet, cars and an airport

Jonathan has witnessed more than 35 governors come and go from Plantation House and has seen the island introduce radio, telephones, TVs, internet, cars and an airport

His official birthday has been recorded as sometime in December. 

His life has been settled and happy on the island, with a long standing relationship with mate Frederica, which formed in 1991, but the pair never had offspring after it was found, 26 years later, that Frederica was a male. 

But, Mr Hollins says this has not impacted Jonathan’s ability to mate. 

[He] is seen frequently to mate with Emma and sometimes Fred – animals are often not particularly gender-sensitive,’ he added. 

Last year, his 190th birthday was celebrated with a three-day-long party at Governor’s House.

Highlights included a display of a range of posters celebrating Jonathan’s life, bearing pictures and messages from those who have visited him over the years.

Inventions Jonathan is older than 

The Telephone – 1869

The first patent which would become what we now know as the telephone was granted to Alexander Graham Bell in 1869. 

The Photograph – 1839

The very first images were printed in 1839. The ‘daguerreotype’ was the first publicly available type of photography process.

The Postal Stamp – 1840

A schoolmaster from England, Sir Rowland Hill invented the adhesive postage stamp in 1837. The first stamp in the world was issued in England in 1840. Known as the Penny Black, it featured the engraved profile of Queen Victoria, who remained on all British stamps for the next 60 years.

Motion Pictures – 1890s

The history of film began in the 1890s when motion picture cameras were invented and film production companies began to be established. The commercial, public screening of ten of the Lumière brothers’ short films in Paris in December 1895 is regarded as the breakthrough of projected motion pictures, which would remain without sound for the next 27 years. 

First powered airship – 1852

The hot-air balloon was the first powered airship. It was a hydrogen filled balloon powered by a steam engine, and was invented in 1852, nearly 20 years after Jonathan is thought to have been born. 

The Typewriter – 1867

The first practical typewriter was  completed in September, 1867, although a patent was not issued until June, 1868.

The Ironing Board – 1858

The first ironing board was co-patented on February 16, 1858, by inventors William Vandenburg and James Harvey of New York City. 

Jelly Beans -1861

It thought that jelly beans first came into the public conscious in 1861 when Boston confectioner and inventor William Schrafft urged people to send his jelly beans to soldiers during the American Civil War. Now, they are recognised as a sweet treat throughout the world. 

The Lightbulb – 1879

The first commercial lightbulb came onto the market in 1879, despite the fact electricity was ‘discovered’ by Benjamin Franklin way back in 1752. 





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