split image jonathan oldest chelonian

You might already recognise Jonathan the tortoise – he’s the oldest living land animal in the world. 😍

He has now earned a new Guinness World Records title

Shell-ebrating his 190th birthday this year, Jonathan is the world’s oldest tortoise ever

His official new record title is oldest chelonian. Chelonians are reptiles with protective shells, like turtles and tortoises. 🐢

Jonathan the tortoise pictured in December 2021

Jonathan is still in good health, at least for a 190-year-old tortoise. He has no sense of smell and has been blind for a few years, but his hearing is still excellent.

Jonathan loves the company of humans, especially his vet, Joe Hollins. Every time Jonathan hears Joe’s voice, he knows a feast is coming! 😋🥕


Jonathan doesn’t have a birth certificate and he can’t talk to humans, so how do we know his exact age?

Well, we don’t. Jonathan is probably even older than we know! 😲

Jonathan’s age was calculated based on the fact that he was fully grown by the time he arrived on the island of St Helena in 1882. This means that he was at least 50 years old. 

With some simple subtraction, we can work out that Jonathan must have been born some time around the year 1832, meaning he is at least 190 years old today. 👴

The previous oldest chelonian was Tu’i Malila, a tortoise that lived to be at least 188. 🐢

Jonathan (left) c.1882-86, on the grounds of Plantation House, St Helena

Jonathan is a Seychelles giant tortoise, originally from the Seychelles islands. In 1882 he was sent to St Helena, where he has lived ever since. 🌴

The old photo above was taken shortly after he arrived. It shows Jonathan munching on some grass in the gardens of Plantation House – the home of the Governor of St Helena. 

Since then, 31 more governors have come and gone. Jonathan is still there today, hanging out with three other giant tortoise friends: David, Emma and Fred. 🐢🐢🐢


Jonathan has lived through some important events in history, such as:

• 1838 – the first photograph of a person was taken 📷

• 1876 – the first telephone call was made 📞

• 1887 – the Eiffel Tower, the world’s tallest iron structure, was completed 🥖

• 1903 – the first power-driven flight took to the skies, flown by the Wright brothers (both USA) ✈️

• 1969 – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (both USA) became the first people on the Moon 🚀

• 1993 – the first internet browser was released 🌐

Jonathan with his vet, Joe Hollins

Our world has changed so much from 1832 to 2022, but Jonathan remained the same. To this day, his favourite hobbies are sleeping and eating. 😄

Vet Joe says, “Jonathan enjoys the sun, but on very hot days takes to the shade. On mild days, he will sunbathe – his long neck and legs stretched fully out of his shell to absorb heat and transfer it to his core."

When it’s cold, the world's oldest tortoise prefers to “dig himself into leaf mould or grass clippings and remain there all day.” 😴

Some of his favourite foods are cabbage, cucumber, carrot, apple and other fruits. 🥬️🍎🥕

“He loves banana, but it tends to gum up his mouth. Lettuce hearts, though not very nutritious, are a favourite.” 🍌


We wish Jonathan a very happy 190th year, full of his favourite treats and lots of naps! 🐢❤️️