Big Ol' Jonathan the Tortoise

Jonathan lives on St. Helena island .

He is a giant tortoise.

He is very old.


Jonathan is not just the oldest giant tortoise, but probably the oldest living land animal on the planet!





So how old is Jonathan?

Jonathan does not have a birth certificate, so we can not be precise. It is believed that he is about 190 years old!! WOW!!


He was brought to St. Helena Island as a gift in 1882. As he was already fully grown upon arrival, he should have been at least 50 years old. That means he might have hatched in 1832 (or earlier), so this year he will celebrate his 190th birthday.


Jonathan (left) with another giant tortoise (1886) (Wikipedia)



About Giant Tortoises


They are Reptiles

Reptiles are vertebrates - they have backbones. They are cold-blooded animals whos' body temperature is raised by lying in the sun and lowering it by crawling into the shade. They lay eggs. Giant tortoise eggs are about the size of a tennis ball.

In the reptiles group you can find snakes, lizards, alligators, crocodiles, turtles and tortoises.


They are Herbivores

Herbivores are animals that only eat plants. Herbivores (such as rabbits, giraffes, and goats) have teeth that are adapted to grind vegetables. Many animals that eat fruits and leaves sometimes eat other parts of plants like its roots and seeds.

*Animals that eat only meat are called carnivores

*Animals that eat both plants and meat are called omnivores.


They are land animals

Land animals are animals that live mainly or entirely on land (like cats, dogs, ants, spiders and more).

*Aquatic animals live mainly or entirely in the water (like fish, lobsters, octopuses and more)

*Amphibians live their first part of their life in the water and the second part on land (like frogs, salamanders and toads)


They are big

Giant tortoises can weigh more than 900 pounds and can grow to be 4-5 ft. long.


More about giant tortoises

  • They are very slow and spend lots of time basking in the sun

  • They compete with each other by extending their necks out of their shells to see which of them can extend it the highest

  • A baby giant tortoise is called a hatchling

  • they are gentle creatures but can bite if feel threatened

  • No - the grooves on their shells cannot be used to tell how old they are.

  • They are considered endangered species

  • They are very powerful and can smash small trees


Jonathan loves having his neck stroked



Jonathan loves bananas, cabbage and carrots.


Here he is in April 2021 (Wikipedia):



What happened in the world during his life?


  • When England's Queen Elizabeth great-grandmother Queen Victoria became the queen in 1837, Jonathan was already 5 years old

  • The first telephone was invented in 1849 - when Jonathan was 17 years old

  • The first car was invented in 1886 - when Jonathan was 54 years old

  • The Wright brothers had invented the first successful airplane in 1903 - when Jonathan was 71 years old

  • The first parking meter was invented in 1932 - when Jonathan was 100 years old

  • The first men landed on the moon in 1969 - when Jonathan was 137 years old

  • The first personal computer was invented in 1976 - when Jonathan was 144 years old'

  • The internet was invented in 1983 - when Jonathan was 151 years old

  • Google was founded in 1998 - when Jonathan was 166 years old



Jonathan the tortoise already saw 40 US presidents:

  1. Andrew Jackson 1829-1837

  2. Martin Van Buren 1837-1841

  3. William Henry Harrison 1841-1841 (died in office)

  4. John Tyler 1841-1845

  5. James K. Polk 1845-1849

  6. Zachary Taylor 1849-1850

  7. Millard Fillmore 1850-1853

  8. Franklin Pierce 1853-1857

  9. James Buchanan 1857-1861

  10. Abraham Lincoln 1861-1865

  11. Andrew Johnson 1865-1869

  12. Ulysses S. Grant 1869-1877

  13. Rutherford B. Hayes 1877-1881

  14. James A. Garfield 1881-(Died in Office)

  15. Chester A. Arthur 1881-1885

  16. Grover Cleveland 1885-1889

  17. Benjamin Harrison 1889-1893

  18. Grover Cleveland 1893-1897

  19. William McKinley 1897-1901

  20. Theodore Roosevelt 1901-1909

  21. William Howard Taft 1909-1913

  22. Woodrow Wilson 1913-1921

  23. Warren G. Harding 1921-1923

  24. Calvin Coolidge 1923-1929

  25. Herbert Hoover 1929-1933

  26. Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933-1945

  27. Harry S. Truman 1945-1953

  28. Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953-1961

  29. John F. Kennedy 1961-1963

  30. Lyndon B. Johnson 1963-1969

  31. Richard M. Nixon 1969-1974

  32. Gerald R. Ford 1974-1977

  33. Jimmy Carter 1977-1981

  34. Ronald Reagan 1981-1989

  35. George Bush 1989-1993

  36. Bill Clinton 1993-2001

  37. George W. Bush 2001-2009

  38. Barack Obama 2009-2017

  39. Donald Trump 2017-2021

  40. Joe Biden 2021-present

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