Awaiting A Royal Visit, Jonathan The Giant Tortoise Gets His First Bath In Nearly 200 Years

The 184-year old tortoise is the world's oldest living terrestrial animal.

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Jonathan the giant tortoise gets what is believed to be his first bath in nearly two centuries. Joe Hollins/BNPS
Jonathan the giant tortoise gets what is believed to be his first bath in nearly two centuries. Joe Hollins/BNPS
John Virata

When British royalty comes for an official visit to the British outpost of St. Helena, what do you do with the world’s oldest living animal, Jonathan the Seychelles giant tortoise? Well, you give him a good bath of course!

Jonathan, at an estimated 184 years old, is the oldest known living land animal and was recently given his first official bath by St. Helena island’s resident veterinarian, Dr. Joe Hollins. Hollins was tasked with scrubbing nearly two centuries of grime off Jonathan’s shell, removing what The Telegraph described as black sludge and bird droppings off the tortoise’s scutes.

“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,” Hollins told the news outlet.

Dr. Joe Hollins and Jonathan the giant tortoise get ready for a royal visit. Via The Telegraph

Dr. Joe Hollins and Jonathan the giant tortoise get ready for a royal visit. Via The Telegraph

How did Hollins clean all the that ancient muck? With a loofah, a soft brush and some surgical soap, items that wouldn’t damage the chelonian’s shell.

“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!'” he told The Telegraph.

“He looks so much cleaner and he seemed to enjoy the whole experience,” he added.

Hollins spent the better part of an hour scrubbing and cleaning Jonathan’s shell. In the course of all that scrubbing, he discovered that the rings on Jonathan’s shell, which are used to determine the tortoise’s age, had worn away after decades of living on the island in the south Atlantic.

Jonathan came to the island from the Seychelles in 1882 as a gift to the governor of the island. At the time of his arrival he was already estimated to be 50 years old. During his time on the island, 28 British governors have served on St. Helena. Jonathan is so revered on St. Helena that he is on the tails side of the  Saint Helena five pence coin.

“Hopefully he won’t have to wait another 185 years before his next bath,” Hollins said.

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