Jonathan the tortoise – the world’s oldest living land animal, aged 186 – won’t have surgery to remove cataracts as it’s too risky, say vets
- Jonathan, who also has no sense of smell, lives on St Helena in South Atlantic
- Still plods around grounds of Plantation House, home of governor of St Helena
- Reptile was roughly 50 when he arrived on island from Seychelles in 1882
There’s bad news for the world’s oldest living terrestrial animal, Jonathan the giant tortoise.
At the age of 186 – and now blind – the famous resident of St Helena won’t be having surgery to remove cataracts, as vets have decided it’s too risky.
Jonathan, who has also lost his sense of smell, was approximately 50 years old when he arrived on the small island in the south Atlantic from the Seychelles in 1882.
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At the age of 186, Jonathan the tortoise – the world’s oldest living land animal – won’t be having surgery to remove cataracts, as vets on his home island of St Helena have decided it’s too risky. (He is pictured in October 2017)
Jonathan was approximately 50 years old when he arrived on the small island in the south Atlantic from the Seychelles in 1882. (He is pictured in 1900, during the Second Boer War, being watched by a guard and a prisoner-of-war)
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said earlier this week: ‘St Helena’s most famous resident, Jonathan the tortoise, is looked after by the island vet who ensures a high-standard of care to the world’s oldest terrestrial animal.
‘After much deliberation on the island, the vet decided removing Jonathan’s cataracts was too high-risk a procedure.’
The Conservative peer added that Jonathan continues to lead an active life.
The reptile can still be found happily plodding around the the grounds of Plantation House, the home of the governor of St Helena.
Following the death of Harriet, a 175-year-old giant Galapagos Land tortoise, in 2005 in Australia, Jonathan has been recognised as the world’s oldest living land animal.
In 1991, vets decided Jonathan (above in 1997) needed a girlfriend and he was given a mate – called Frederica. Three decades later, it was discovered that his lover was actually a male, who was renamed Frederic
He wasn’t given his name until the 1930s by governor Sir Spencer Davis.
In his time on St Helena, he has seen 28 British governors come and go; eight British monarchs from George IV to Elizabeth II have been crowned during his lifetime; and 51 British Prime Ministers have served at 10 Downing Street.
In 1991, vets decided Jonathan needed a girlfriend and he was given a mate – called Frederica.
However, three decades later – after the vets went to repair a lesion on the reptile’s shell – it was discovered that his long-term lover was actually a male, and renamed Frederic.
St Helena: One of the world’s most remote islands
Jonathan’s journey: The giant tortoise made his way from the Seychelles to the remote island of St Helena more than a century ago
St Helena is a 122 square kilometre island in the middle of the South Atlantic and more than 1,200 miles from Angola, its nearest landmass – making it one of the world’s most remote islands.
Until recently, the only way to get to the South Atlantic British Overseas Territory was via a five-night voyage aboard the RMS St Helena, a 155-berth passenger ship and cargo carrier, and one of the last ocean-going vessels still to carry the title.
But now, weekly flights are available from South Africa.
St Helena – which is just ten miles long – is home to remote and unspoilt wilderness and enjoys mild temperatures between 20-27°C.
Britain’s second oldest remaining of the British Overseas Territories, after Bermuda, it has a population of just 4,255.
The remote destination is perhaps best known as the place where Napoleon was exiled after his Waterloo defeat
Discovered in 1502, the island was stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa, and Napoleon was imprisoned there by the British.
Longwood House was Napoleon’s home during the last years of his life and is now a museum.
St Helena lay undiscovered for around 14 million years – and evolved its own unique flora and fauna untouched by the outside world.
But almost from the moment Portuguese explorer Juan de Nova was blown there by the Trade Winds in 1502, it assumed an importance out of all proportion to its size.
It was a key stopping place for the ships of the East India Company and other vessels; at its peak, it serviced a thousand a year.
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