Healthier diet acts as kiss of life for Jonathan, 183-year-old giant tortoise

Jonathan, the 183-year-old Aldabra giant tortoise, is the world’s oldest known animal. Owing to a healthier diet, Jonathan is now regaining his health. The species was on the verge of complete extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries owing to extreme hunting.

Unhealthy diet took toll on Jonathan, which lives on the remote Atlantic Ocean island of St. Helena. He suffered deteriorating health and started losing eyesight and sense of smell. Things changed in 2014 when a local veterinarian Joe Hollins noticed Jonathhan’s plight and started giving a more nutritious menu, including apples, carrots, cucumbers, bananas and guava.

Healthier diet worked wonders on Jonathan and a year later, he was healthier. Hollins said that the feed has dramatically improved Jonathan’s health. “His once blunt and crumbly beak has become sharp and lethal, so he was probably suffering from microdeficiencies [sic] of vitamins, minerals and trace elements”, said Hollins.

The Aldabra giant tortoise is also known as the Seychelles giant tortoise. It can grow up to the 550 pounds and is native to several islands in the Indian Ocean. Majority of the island populations of the species went extinct in the 18th and 19th centuries as people hunted them for food.

Today, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the tortoise as vulnerable to extinctions. Most of the world’s remaining population of wild Aldabra giant tortoises lives on the Aldabra Atoll, an outer island of the Seychelles near Madagascar. But Jonathan has been living on Saint Helena since 1882.

Justin Gerlach, the scientific coordinator for the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles, said that Aldabra giant tortoises are more interesting and sociable than most people would expect. In the wild, they form groups and like to assemble in open grasslands. In captivity, if they are kept well, they will seek human company.