Jonathan, St Helena’s ageless giant tortoise, celebrates his remarkable 191st birthday, embodying resilience and connection to centuries of history.
Global (06 December 2023) – Jonathan the giant tortoise, has recently celebrated a mind-boggling 191 years of existence. Heralded as the national treasure of this idyllic island, Jonathan’s journey through time is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
While Jonathan’s exact date of birth is unknown, Governor Nigel Phillips granted him an official birthday on the 4th of December, 1832.
The sheer longevity of this venerable creature is an outlier in the world of turtles and tortoises. While some species barely surpass a couple of decades in captivity, and a fortunate few reach the ripe age of 150, Jonathan has defied all expectations by clocking an astounding 190 years. His exceptional feat has earned him not one but two Guinness World Record titles – the oldest living land animal globally and the eldest chelonian to grace our planet.
Nestled on the picturesque St Helena, Jonathan has stood as a stoic witness to the tides of history, spanning from the Mines Act of 1842 to the abolition of slavery in 1865 and beyond. As an elder statesman of the animal kingdom, his journey parallels the reigns of eight British monarchs and the tenures of 40 U.S. presidents, weaving him seamlessly into the fabric of time. Despite the inevitable challenges that accompany the passage of years, including a fading sense of smell and impaired vision, Jonathan’s dedicated caretakers, under the guidance of the unwavering veterinarian Joe Hollins, ensured that the venerable tortoise marked his 191st year with a feast fit for royalty, laden with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
“It is extraordinary to think that this gentle giant has outlived every other living creature on land, including, of course, the whole human race,” Hollins said.
“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!”
Jonathan’s unwavering appetite and zest for life are a testament to the indomitable spirit that has carried him through the centuries. His continued vitality is a source of inspiration, reflecting a resilience that transcends the boundaries of time and age.
St Helena, a bucket-list destination for travellers seeking refuge in its remote volcanic tropical haven, is the backdrop to Jonathan’s extraordinary story. Situated 1,950 kilometres west of the coast of southwestern Africa and 4,000 kilometres east of Rio de Janeiro in South America, this island serves as a sanctuary for those looking to disconnect and rediscover the beauty of simplicity.
St Helena can be booked directly from Johannesburg to St Helena (with Airlink). Airlink has recently doubled its scheduled flight service between South Africa and St Helena to a seasonal twice-weekly flight.