He was born shortly after Napoleon’s death and is now officially the oldest living land animal on the planet. Jonathan the tortoise turns approximately 190 years old on the island of Saint Helena, where the French Emperor died in exile in 1821.
Based on the measurements of his carapace, experts calculate that Jonathan was born around the year 1832 and that five decades later he was taken to the remote British territory in the South Atlantic, from the Seychelles islands, where he originated.
But his age is only an estimate: a photograph taken shortly after his arrival on St. Helena in 1882 shows that he was already at least 50 years old, but certainly older.
Now the turtle lives a comfortable retirement at the official residence of the Governor of St. Helena, where his birthday will be celebrated throughout the weekend with events including the issuance of a special stamp.
His image already appears on 5-cent coins and stamps from the immigration agency on this island of 4,500 inhabitants.
The celebrations culminate on Sunday with a “birthday cake” made from Jonathan’s favorite foods. He especially likes carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, apples and pears, according to his handlers interviewed by AFP in 2017.
Despite his advanced age, and having lost his sight and smell, although he keeps his hearing intact, he has a predilection for a female turtle named Emma, a young woman of about 50 years old.
“I regularly hear him out on the lawn playing with Emma. But I have to watch them when they go into action because the turtles can turn on their backs and never get up again. That wasn’t in my job description!” lol, then-Governor Lisa Phillips.
Earlier this year, Jonathan was awarded a title in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s oldest living land animal, and this month he was also named the world’s oldest turtle.
“If you think he was born in 1832… God, the world has changed!” exclaims Joe Hollins, a retired veterinarian who is now Jonathan’s primary caregiver.
“The world wars, the rise and fall of the British Empire, the governors, kings and queens that followed, is extraordinary!”, he lists.
Though they expect it to live on for many years to come, St. Helena authorities are already making plans for the venerable chelonian’s eventual demise: its carapace will be preserved for posterity.
© Agence France-Presse