On Saturday 19 March 2016, an historic event took place in the grounds of Plantation House, St Helena Island. Jonathan the Giant Tortoise – the oldest known living land animal on Earth and creakingly old national treasure at an estimated age of 184 years – was washed for the first time in recorded history by vet Dr Joe Hollins (pictured).
Joe explained that the reason for bathing Jonathan came after he cleaned – and transformed – the shell of one of the female tortoises at Plantation House. Joe consulted a tortoise specialist to establish the method of cleaning, which includes gentle, circular scrubbing using non-abrasive materials.
“It is purely for aesthetic reasons. We want visitors and tourists on the Island to witness the tortoises in their true form, without the obstruction of moss and lichen on their shells. There is so much interest in Jonathan, St Helena’s most famous animal resident, and we want all who visit him to see him at his best.”
Joe, who has built a close relationship with Jonathan through hand-feeding him his diet over the past few years, added:
“He responds to my voice so we have a special bond. I give him a weekly check-up and feed him fresh vegetables and fruit, just to make sure that our very special old gentleman is getting adequate nourishment and fluid.
“As a vet, it has been an honour having Jonathan under my care, looking after the oldest known animal in the world. I love animals and caring for Jonathan and his fellow tortoises at Plantation House has been a unique experience in my career.”
The life expectancy of a Giant Tortoise is estimated at 150 years, a figure Jonathan has already exceeded by around three decades.
21 March 2016