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Jonathan, the Really Old Tortoise

Plain English


Jonathan the tortoise on a field looking ito the camera.

Jonathan is about 188 years old.

Photo: Saint Helena Tourism on Instagram


Jonathan is a tortoise who lives on the island of St. Helena. He is thought to be about 188 years old. That makes him the oldest living land animal in the world.

Black and white photo from about 1900. Field, two men in the background. Jonathan the old and large tortoise in the foreground.

This photo of Jonathan was taken in the year 1886.

Jonathan was born in Seychelles, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean. He was brought to St. Helena in 1882 along with three other tortoises. He was then thought to be fully mature. That is, at least 50 years old.

Jonathan is much older than other tortoises.

Tortoises of his kind usually live till 150 years of age. Jonathan has now lived far beyond that. He cannot see much as he has cataract. But he can hear well and eats well. He has a good sexual life, too.

Jonathan loves the sound of tennis.


Jonathan's vet Joe Hollins says, “Jonathan is gentle and enjoys the company of people. He loves the sounds of tennis.”

Jonathan loves to eat lettuce, cucumber, carrots, and apple. He loves to eat anything juicy. About 10 years ago, Jonathan’s beak had become blunt. So he could not graze properly. His diet was changed a bit. This helped him graze once again.


Contemporary black and white photo of Jonathan the tortoise.

Jonathan the tortoise likes to laze in the sun.

Photo: Saint Helena Tourism on Instagram


Jonathan likes to laze in the sun. He stretches his long neck and legs fully out of his shell. When he sun bathes like this, sometimes people think he’s dead.


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On cold winter days, Jonathan digs himself into leaf mould or grass clippings and remains there all day.


Jonathan is the oldest living land animal in the world.

St. Helena’s people are proud of Jonathan. His photo appears on their 5 pence coin.

Watch the video of the song about Jonathan.


More information: St Helena Tourism

*Quotes are edited to Plain English*

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