This tortoise in St Helena is the world’s oldest living land animal This tortoise in St Helena is the world’s oldest living land animal

Considered a national treasure to the remote island, Jonathan the tortoise has just celebrated another milestone birthday…
04 December 2022

Born in the early 1800s, the world’s oldest living land animal has just celebrated yet another huge birthday.

Jonathan the tortoise has turned 190 years old, and is now known to also be the oldest chelonian ever recorded, becoming a two-time Guinness World Record Holder.

Wanderlust previously met Jonathan on a trip to St Helena in 2018! (Lyn Hughes)

The Seychelles giant tortoise has resided on St Helena since moving there in the 1880s. This British Overseas Territory is one of the most remote islands in the world, sitting alone in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.

Jonathan has spent most of his life on the grounds of the Plantation House at St Helena, among other tortoise friends, where he has seen more than 35 governors of St Helena come and go. He’s also lived through two world wars and several major changes to island life, including the introduction of cars, phones, televisions, and of course, the internet.


Joe Hollins, a retired vet on the island who still cares for Jonathan said: “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? It is such a privilege to be able to care for this magnificent animal.”

Read next In Napoleon’s footsteps: Far-flung adventures on St Helena island


The historic creature’s age is an estimate based on shell measurements from when he first arrived in St Helena in 1882. It is thought he is probably older.

To mark the occasion, St Helena has been celebrating its famous resident’s birthday across three days (2-4 December) at the Plantation House. 

The long celebration has included an exhibition of photos taken throughout the years with generations of families posing alongside Jonathan, as well as exclusive governor-signed certificates of Johnathon’s footprint available to pick up across the weekend.

During the Sunday Plantation Market, there will be an animated video and song premiering that tells the story of Jonathan’s life, and he will also receive a special birthday cake made entirely of healthy foods. Plus, an exclusive stamp has also gone on sale to commemorate the historic occasion.

For more information, head to St Helena’s Facebook page.

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