Although scientific, the calculation of the age of “Jonathan” is inconclusive. What is known is that this turtle is the oldest living land animal in the world. He was born shortly after Napoleon’s death and is now officially the oldest living land animal on the planet. Jonathan the turtle turns 190 (more or less) on the island of Saint Helena, where the French emperor died in exile in 1821.
Based on the measurements of his shell, experts calculate that Jonathan was born around 1832 and that 5 decades later he was taken to that remote British territory in the South Atlantic from the Seychelles Islands, where he originated. But his age is only an estimate: a photograph taken upon his arrival in 1882 shows that he was then at least 50 years old, but surely older.
He now lives a comfortable retirement at the official residence of the governor of Santa Elena, where his birthday is celebrated throughout the weekend with events that include the issuance of a special stamp. His image already appears on 5-cent coins and immigration stamps on this island of 4,500 inhabitants.
The festivities culminate on Sunday with a “birthday cake” made from Jonathan’s favorite foods. He especially likes carrots, lettuce, cucumber, apples and pears, according to his caregivers interviewed by AFP in 2017.
Despite his advanced age, and having lost his sight and smell although he has intact hearing, he has a predilection for a female turtle named Emma, a young lady in her 50s. “I regularly hear him on the lawn frolicking with Emma. But I have to watch them when they go into action because the turtles can roll onto their backs and never get up again. That wasn’t in my job description!”, said then-Governor Lisa Phillips.
Earlier this year, Jonathan was awarded the Guinness World Records title for the world’s oldest living land animal, and this month he was also named the world’s oldest tortoise.