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See 184-year-old tortoise get its first human-powered bath

It's not easy washing an ancient giant tortoise, but an intrepid vet takes on the challenging task with a scrub brush in hand.

Jonathan the tortoise
Jonathan gets a good scrubbing.
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Meet Jonathan. He's a national treasure on St. Helena, a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean famous for hosting Napoleon Bonaparte during his exile starting in 1815. Jonathan is a Seychelles Giant Tortoise and his age is estimated at about 184 years.

Jonathan is not opposed to dragging himself into water or mud to keep cool, but, as far as anyone knows, he had never been given a human-powered bath until this month. Intrepid veterinarian Joe Hollins got out a scrub brush and went to work on Jonathan's shell.

The official St. Helena government YouTube channel released a video last week of the historic tortoise-washing event, which took place on March 19.

Hollins is St. Helena's only vet. He's in charge of Jonathan's care and regularly hand-feeds the oldster, whose ability to eat normally is declining.

The St. Helena tourism website describes Jonathan as "possibly the oldest living land creature in the world." There's a legend that Jonathan was in residence on St. Helena when Napoleon was kept in exile there, but that myth has been debunked. He's not quite that old, but he's close. He may have actually arrived at the island in 1882 at the ripe middle age of somewhere around 50.

Giant tortoises can weigh over 900 pounds (408 kilograms). That's a whole lot of reptile to scrub down. Hollins started at the rear of Jonathan's shell, squirted soap on it and went to town with a brush. Jonathan didn't hold still for the process, adding to the challenge.

Jonathan's spa experience left the tortoise looking not a day over 125.