Long being the subject of various dichotomies in folklore and philosophy, tortoises may not have the ability to outrun us, but they certainly possess the tendency to outlive us by many decades.
Jonathan the 182-year-old giant tortoise who lives on the island of St. Helena is considered the oldest animal alive on our planet today.
The tropical island of the South Atlantic houses five giant tortoises. Jonathan is the oldest amongst the lot: a Seychelles giant tortoise who is fully acclimatized to the environment of St. Helena, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Despite being blinded by cataracts and totally lacking his sense of smell, Jonathan is still going strong.
Jonathan isn’t a native resident of St. Helena; he was brought to the island from Seychelles sometime in 1882, and according to the records when Jonathan arrived on St. Helena along with other three tortoises he was about 50 years old.
In the 1930’s, St. Helena Governor Sir Spencer Davis named the large tortoise Jonathan. Jonathan currently lives happily in the grounds of the same Plantation House that was once the official residence of the Governor and is now the property of the government of St. Helena.
The precise age of the large tortoise has always been a subject of inquiry amongst historians and researchers. A photograph collection from the Boer War shows a tortoise standing next to a war prisoner around the turn of the 20th century.
In a story published on December 5th, 2008 in Britain’s Daily Mail suggested that the large tortoise in the image in question is, in fact, Jonathan.
Researchers have since proposed that if Jonathan was 70 at the time the photograph was taken, it makes him the longest living terrestrial animal, having successfully crawled his way through two centuries and into the new millennium.
Although Jonathan is the longest land animal currently living, he isn’t the record holder yet.
That title belongs to another tortoise, Tui Malila, who died in 1965 in Tonga at approximately 189 years of age and secured a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Adwaita, another Aldabra giant tortoise who died in 2006 in Alipore Zoological Garden in Kolkata, India, was claimed to be 255 years old.
However, her age was never officially confirmed. Another prominent and ancient tortoise was Harriet, a giant Galapagos tortoise reportedly handled by Charles Darwin himself when he visited the islands in 1835. Harriet died in captivity in Australia in 2016 at the age of 175.