Monday, 28 March 2016

World's oldest Tortoise, age 184

The world's oldest living tortoise is starting over with a clean sheet at 184 years old and enjoy his first ever bath. The tortoise named Jonathan has come out of his shell after centuries of grime were painstakingly scrubbed off his back with a loofah, soft brush and surgical soap. Dr Joe Hollins, 58, the vet for the British outpost of St Helena in the south Atlantic where Jonathan lives, decided to give him a bath. Therefore, he prudently scrubbed each of the segments of Jonathan's shell, recognized as scutes, and removed black sludge and bird droppings while the tortoise calmly chewed on grass. Hence, surgical soap was selected as it is not caustic and soft brushes and loofahs were gently used to evade injury to his shell.  It was only after his bath it was realized the rings on his shell, which habitually tell a tortoises' age, have totally worn away. Jonathan, who is 45ins long and can stand up to 2ft tall, arrived on St Helena as a gift to the governor from the Seychelles.

There was no medical reason for his hour-long soak but it was done ahead of a visit by an unidentified royal to the small island of St Helena in May for the dedication of the new airport. However, the spring clean comes months after the giant tortoise, who was aged 50 when he arrived on the historic isle in 1882, was placed on a special high calorie diet as it was feared his health was on the wane. Dr Hollins, believes it is Jonathan's first ever bath. Because in the past Jonathan's keepers had a rather laissez faire insolence to the tortoises on St Helena and so this is perhaps his first wash in 184 years. We are trying to give him a good scrub as we’re supposing a royal visitor who is going to meet him so we want him to look his best.

Furthermore, now Jonathan looks so much cleaner and seemed to relish the entire experience.  He stood like a statue when I was washing him, even I don't know whether that was the vibrations he found soothing or he was thinking at last, have had my first baths. Therefore, I just had a bucket of water with some surgical scrub and used the loofah and a little brush and just gradually cleaned him, it was pretty tiring though, but he doesn't look any younger, but he does look changed. He is much paler and you can see the rings on his shell have almost totally disappeared. The massive tortoise 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. It is believed that Jonathan's journey made his way from the Seychelles to the remote island of St Helena more than a century ago.

So, I’m very hopeful that he won't have to wait another 185 years before his next bath. In his time on St Helena he has seen 28 British governors come and go. Moreover 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. For those keen to see Jonathan luckily plodding around the Governor's house, private tours have been arranged in the past.  He at present shares his enclosure with four other giant tortoises David, Emma, Frederika and Myrtle.

Though he has lost his sense of smell and his eyesight is also dying, but he is said to be in good health. Dr Hollins has decided to take his loofah to the other tortoises and some of them are dirtier than their elderly friend Jonathan. However, following the death of Harriet, a 175-year-old giant Galapagos Land tortoise, in 2005 in Australia, Jonathan has been recognized as the world's oldest living land animal. 

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