World’s oldest living animal, 184-year-old tortoise named Jonathan, has first ever bath
Giant tortoise living on British outpost of St Helena is given a clean-up ahead of Royal visit
The world’s oldest living animal, a 184-year-old giant tortoise, has had its first ever bath.
Jonathan, a giant tortoise living on St Helena, was cleaned up by the island’s vet in preparation for an upcoming Royal visit.
Almost two centuries’ worth of grime was scrubbed off its back using a loofah, soft brush and surgical soap.
Dr Joe Hollins, the vet for the tiny British outpost island in the south Atlantic, scrubbed each of the segments of Jonathan’s shell, known as scutes, and removed black sludge and bird droppings while the tortoise sedately chewed on grass.
Surgical soap was chosen as it is not caustic and the soft brushes and loofah were gently used so not to damage its shell.
It was only after Jonathan’s bath it was realised the rings on its shell, which usually tell a tortoises’ age, have completely worn away.
There was no medical reason for the hour-long clean-up but it was done ahead of a visit by a member of the Royal family to the tiny island of St Helena in May for the dedication of the new airport.
The spring clean comes months after Jonathan was placed on a special high calorie diet as it was feared its health was on the wane.
Jonathan, which is 45ins long and can stand up to 2ft tall, was already 50 years old when it was brought to St Helena as a gift to the governor from the Seychelles in the late 19th century.
Dr Hollins, 58, said he believed it was Jonathan’s first ever bath.
He said: « In the past Jonathan’s keepers had a rather laissez faire attitude to the tortoises on St Helena and so this is probably his first wash in 184 years.
« We gave him a good scrub as we are expecting a Royal visitor who is going to meet him so we want him to look his best.
« He looks so much cleaner and he seemed to enjoy the whole experience.
« Jonathan stood like a statue when I was washing him, I don’t know whether that was the vibrations he found soothing or he was thinking ‘At last, I’ve had my first bath!’.
« I just had a bucket of water with some surgical scrub and used the loofah and a little brush and just slowly cleaned him, it was pretty tiring.
« He doesn’t look any younger, but he does look different. He is much paler and you can see the rings on his shell have almost completely disappeared.
« He had black deposits on his shell that came from wear and tear. As far as I could see his shell is in great condition for his age.
« Hopefully he won’t have to wait another 185 years before his next bath. »
In its time on St Helena the tortoise has seen 28 British governors come and go. Eight British monarchs from George IV to Elizabeth II have been crowned during its lifetime and 51 British Prime Ministers have served at 10 Downing Street.
It currently shares his enclosure with four other giant tortoises; David, Emma, Frederika and Myrtle.
Dr Hollins, 58, now has to take his loofah to the other tortoises and some of them are dirtier than their elderly friend Jonathan.
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.
St Helena was chosen as the place of Emperor Napoleon’s second exile and the French dictator died there in 1821.