World’s oldest land animal, Jonathan the tortoise, celebrates 190th birthday

Officials on the South Atlantic island St. Helena on Friday kicked off a three-day celebration to mark the 190th birthday of its oldest known resident: Jonathan the tortoise.

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St. Helena officials have spent the year preparing for Jonathan’s birthday. Authorities have been soliciting video birthday messages and issued limited edition stamps to celebrate the milestone.

The Seychelles giant tortoise has been living on the island since 1882, when he was brought as a gift for Sir William Grey-Wilson, CNN reported. Grey-Wilson later became governor, and Jonathan took up residence at the governor’s official home, the Plantation House.

His exact date of birth is not known. It is estimated he was born in 1832 because he was fully mature by the time he got to St. Helena, meaning he had to be at least 50 years old, according to Guinness World Records. Matt Joshua, head of tourism on St. Helena, told CNN that the tortoise could be as old as 200.

In November, Gov. Nigel Phillips gave Jonathan an official birthday of Dec. 4, 1832, according to The Guardian. To mark the date, officials have planned a celebration at a stall dedicated to the tortoise at the Plantation Christmas Market.

Jonathan holds a pair of Guinness World Records for being the oldest living land animal and being the oldest chelonian, a category including all turtles, terrapins and tortoises.

Jonathan’s vet, Joe Hollins, earlier this year told Guinness World Records that throughout his life, the tortoise’s main interests have remained sleeping, eating and mating.

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