Jonathan the Tortoise Celebrates His 190th Birthday With a Salad Cake and Three-Day Party

Sophie Hirsh - Author
By

Dec. 8 2022, Updated 2:07 p.m. ET

Happy birthday, Johnny!

Jonathan, who is known as the world’s oldest living tortoise — and oldest land animal — just celebrated 190 years on this Earth. You read that right: Jonathan the tortoise is 190 years old! And of course, the people of St. Helena pulled out all the stops for his 190th birthday.

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Keep reading to learn more about Jonathan, his long life, and how he celebrated his 190th this week.

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Jonathan the tortoise just celebrated his 190th birthday.

Jonathan, aka Jonathan the Giant Tortoise, is a Seychelles Giant tortoise (Dipsochelys hololissa). He has been recognized by Guinness World Records for being the oldest chelonian (a category of reptiles that includes turtles, tortoises, and terrapins) on record to have ever lived, as well as the oldest land animal alive.

He celebrated his birthday on St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic Ocean, where he has lived for nearly 150 years. (He’s so famous there that his image appears on 5-pence coins in St. Helena, according to the British Museum.)

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The birthday festivities took place over the course of three days, from Friday, Dec. 2 through Sunday, Dec. 4, at Plantation House, the governor’s official home. All weekend long, the house’s Tortoise Viewing Corridor had photos of Jonathan on display for visitors to see; visitors could also get an official certificate signed by the St. Helena Governor, Nigel Phillips, certifying that they were there to celebrate Jonathan’s 190th birthday.

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The main event went down on Sunday, Dec. 4, at the Plantation Christmas Market, where there was an official Jonathan stall. There, people could purchase Jonathan postage stamps, watch a video about Jonathan’s life, view the art that won the Jonathan Art competition, and more, according to St. Helena Tourism on Twitter.

There were also a number of other stalls at the Christmas Market that sold merch and other goodies inspired by Jonathan.

But the best part of the day for Jonathan was probably when he was presented with his birthday cake — which was made entirely of raw vegetables. The multi-layer salad cake even featured a figurine of Jonathan made out of an entire cabbage, with a potato for a head and carrots for legs. It was presented to him by the staff members who take care of him every day.

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Jonathan the tortoise has a long history on Earth.

The British Museum estimates that Jonathan was born in 1832 in Seychelles, an island country near East Africa. About 50 years later, in 1882, Jonathan and three other tortoises were brought to St. Helena, where Jonathan has remained since then.

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Jonathan was actually not given his name until he was alive for an estimated century — Governor Sir Spencer Davis, who governed St. Helena in the 1930s, named him Jonathan during his reign.

Though those other three tortoises have presumably passed, Jonathan currently lives amongst three others of his species, named David, Emma, and Fred, according to Guinness World Records.

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Is Jonathan the tortoise gay or bisexual?

Over the years, various reports speculating about Jonathan’s sexuality have emerged, with many wondering if he is gay or bisexual.

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Though Jonathan cannot speak, and therefore cannot label his sexuality, it’s safe to say he is a proud member of the queer community. In January of 2022, Joe Hollins, Jonathan’s veterinarian, told Guinness World Records that although Jonathan is approaching 200, and that his sense of sight and smell are nearly gone, he still has a high sex drive — and that drive doesn’t discriminate against anyone.

"In spite of his age, Jonathan still has good libido and is seen frequently to mate with Emma and sometimes Fred — animals are often not particularly gender-sensitive!" Hollins said at the time.

We're already looking forward to Jonathan's 200th birthday party in 2032.

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