WTF Fun Fact 13110 – Jonathan the Tortoise’s Birthday

Jonathan the Tortoise has seen some things. More than any of us. And that’s because the big guy just celebrated his 190th birthday!

Jonathan the Tortoise’s birthday

A while back we told you about Jonathan, and at that time, no one really seemed to know precisely how old he was since he was brought to – a sanctuary in Saint Helena, a British territory in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Angola and Namibia – at an unverifiable age.

Take a look:

Since then, it looks like it’s been decided that Jonathan is 190 as of this year. We can’t begrudge the guy a party, so we’ll go with it.

Jonathan’s party

CBS News reports that Jonathan the tortoise’s birthday party was quite a bash when it was held in early December 2022.

“The island held an official birthday bash over the weekend, celebrating the longest-living chelonian at the island’s governor’s residence. Along with hosting broadcasts about Jonathan’s significance, the island also held a ‘main event’ in his honor on Sunday [the 4th], where people could get Jonathan stamps and other Jonathan-themed souvenirs.”

Throughout the weekend, the world’s oldest land creature was hailed as a “national treasure” and indulged in a cake made of his favorite vegetables.

According to CBS News (cited below) “Jonathan’s long life has earned him two Guinness World Records – one in 2019 for becoming the world’s oldest land animal and another this January for becoming the oldest living chelonian, a term encompassing turtles, terrapins and tortoises.”

While the sanctuary where he lives lists his birth year as 1832, Guinness believes he could be older. That’s because he wasn’t discovered until 1882, when he was already fully mature. Clearly, some significant years had already passed. We just don’t know how many.

Regardless, Jonathan has survived two World Wars and was even alive when the first telephone call was made in 1876. We feel wiser just looking at him.  WTF fun facts

Source: “World’s oldest land animal, Jonathan the tortoise, celebrates 190th birthday” — CBS News

WTF Fun Fact 12909 – The Land Animal That Lived The Longest

This is something that will make you appreciate how our modern world is still so, so young. The longest-lived creatures are older than any of us, and most were or are older than our desire or ability to record their age for posterity. That said, we do have records of the land animal that lived the longest that we can properly verify. Other animals may have lived longer, but we don’t have reliable ways to prove it.

The radiated tortoise – one of the longest-lived animals

When it comes to sea creatures, we’re even more clueless as to age, and we endanger them by trying to find out. But it’s a bit easier with land animals, especially tortoises since they don’t move very fast.

As far as things we can verify are concerned, a radiated tortoise from Madagascar named Tu’i Malila is the longest-lived land animal. And here’s another fun fact – all its life, Tu’i Malila was thought to be a male. Upon her death, a proper examination was conducted, and it was determined she was female. (Some tortoises obviously don’t have obvious sex characteristics.)

The story of Tu’i Malila

Tu’i Malila means “King” Malila in the Tongan language and records show that Captain James Cook gave her to the royal family of Tonga shortly after her birth in 1777. She stayed in the royal family’s care her whole life until her death in 1965.

The radiated tortoise (a classification that has nothing to do with radiation but rather the pattern on their shells) is now preserved and on display at the Tongan National Center on the island of Tongatapu.

Other “oldest” animals

However, there is some disagreement over what counts as the oldest living animal. Some argue that an Aldabra giant tortoise from India named Adwaita lived to be around 255.

This year (in January 2022) the keepers of a giant tortoise named Jonathan have convinced the Guinness Book of World Records that the animal from St. Helena turned 190.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The King of Tonga” — The Good Turtle Blog

WTF Fun Fact 12819 – Jonathan the Tortoise

Jonathan the tortoise is the oldest known land animal. And in order to fact-check that (since we feel like it would be an easy claim for people to make without much proof), we turned to Snopes.

An 1886 photo of Jonathan the Tortoise

The rumors about a 100+-year-old tortoise actually started in early 2022 when a website called posted a photo from what they said was the early 1900s claiming to show a tortoise named Jonathan who is still alive.

The photo was credited to the director of an NGO on Saint Helena Island where old tortoises are known to live.

Says Snopes: “Jonathan has been misidentified in viral photographs before. We have reached out to the government of Saint Helena Island, where the tortoise lives, to confirm the authenticity of the image.”

The image is real – but the site got one thing wrong. It’s actually OLDER than they claimed, and therefore so is Jonathan!

Jonathan is pushing 200!

One of the photos is from 1886! And Jonathan is already full grown. He’s been on Saint Helena for a very long time, and his age is estimated to be somewhere around 190 years old!

As you might imagine, he’s quite a tourist attraction. So if you’re ever in the South Atlantic, off the coast of Namibia, you can visit Jonathan at the governor’s residence “where he gets hand-fed fruit and vegetables and ‘frolics’ with female tortoises, according to an AFP News Agency video profile, even though he has lost his sight due to cataracts.”

It’s doubtful Jonathan would still be alive without human intervention at this point since a blind tortoise wouldn’t fare well out in the wild.

And the latest rumor about Jonathan is that he is also gay and has a male lover. Apparently, he was partnered with a tortoise named Fredrica back in 1991, and when the caretakers wondered why they weren’t producing any offspring despite their frequent mating, they realized she was a he.

Want one more fun fact to top you off? Saint Helena is the island where Napoleon died after his exile. His body is now in Paris, but you can still visit his original grave after you go to see Jonathan.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Yes, Jonathan the Tortoise Is the Oldest Known Land Animal” — Snopes