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World's Oldest Tortoise Turns 190, Still Boasts Impressive Libido

Jonathan's older than the first photograph, and he still wants to mate, his vet says.

Jonathan the tortoise
Jonathan is 190 now, but was just a spry 184 back in 2016 when he got his first bath from a human.
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Think your age at your next birthday seems daunting? You've got nothing on Jonathan, the oldest tortoise ever. He celebrated his 190th birthday this weekend at his home on the South Atlantic island of St. Helena.

Jonathan was born around 1832, according to his Guinness Book of World Records entry as the longest-lived chelonian, a category that encompasses all turtles, terrapins and tortoises. He's a Seychelles Giant Tortoise, and there's even a photo of him taken back in the mid-1880s, possibly as early as 1882, when he was just a young whippersnapper of 50 or so. (Spoiler: He's a tortoise. He doesn't look much different, though he's now blind and has no sense of smell.)

He lives with three other giant tortoises, David, Emma and Fred, on the grounds of Plantation House, the residence of the governor of St Helena. The Guinness Book of World Records points out that Jonathan was alive when the first photograph of a person was taken, back in 1838. He's now made it to the selfie age.

Although no one thought to record the actual date on which Jonathan was born, St. Helena marked his 190th birthday this weekend, opening up Plantation House to visitors for three days and making a series of commemorative stamps in his honor. He's also on the island's five-pence coin.

Jonathan's favorite foods include cabbage, cucumber, carrot, apple and other seasonal fruits, said Joe Hollins, the veterinarian who cares for him. His main interests are sleeping, eating and mating.

"In spite of his age, Jonathan still has good libido and is seen frequently to mate with Emma and sometimes Fred," Hollins told the Guinness Book of World Records. "Animals are often not particularly gender-sensitive." 

Fred was originally thought to be a female and named Frederica, but 26 years into his pairing with Jonathan, it was discovered the tortoise was male, explaining the lack of offspring. Whoops.

CNET's Amanda Kooser wrote about Jonathan back in 2016 when he was just 184 and had just received his first human-powered bath.