Who doesn't love a big birthday celebration?
If you're a certain tortoise named Jonathan, you've definitely seen more than your fair share!
That's because as of this December 4, Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise who lives on the island of St. Helena, has turned 190 years old. At least.
The achievement was marked with TV appearances and photo sessions and more drama than the slow-moving reptile would have normally seen. But Jonathan took it all in stride.
He's seen this all before, after all!
The best estimate
Jonathan is the oldest known living land animal. But you might wonder, how well can we keep track of an animal that was born nearly two whole centuries ago?
Everything about Jonathan's age is based on an estimate. His actual birth date is unknown.
His home, St. Helena, is an island found in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, south of the equator. The remote tropical paradise has been a British territory for many years. In 1882, the island's governor William Grey-Wilson received Jonathan as a gift. This is the date used to estimate his age.
You see, giant tortoises like Jonathan grow very slowly, and hit the age of maturity at about 50 (this means that they are able to help produce offspring). When Jonathan reached St. Helena, he was already a mature tortoise. So that means that in 1882, he was at least 50 years old. Of course, he could have been even older than that—it is impossible to know for sure!
December 4 it is!
Recently, St. Helena's current governor, Nigel Phillips, officially declared December 4, 1832 as Jonathan's birthday. Though he is certainly showing signs of age—his caretakers say that his eyesight is nearly gone and he doesn't have a sense of smell—he still enjoys a very active lifestyle for an animal his age. Or half his age, even!
He responds quickly to the voice of the people who care for him. And his slow-paced lifestyle is contagious and healthy—everything is more relaxed and calm around him. In return, these people make sure that he is well fed and that he continues his life of leisure without any stress. His diet now consists of cabbage, carrots, and lettuce. And for dessert? It's bananas and guavas. Delicious.
We think that he has more than earned this kind of pampering. As one of his caretakers, Teeny Lucy, described him in a recent CBC interview, he is certainly "a charming old gentleman."