Hyderabad: A photo of a large tortoise has been circulating on social media, mainly Twitter and Facebook, with the claim that it is Jonathan, the 189-year-old "turtle".

A Twitter page shared the photo of the tortoise with the caption, "Born in 1832, Jonathan the Turtle is expected to turn 190 in 2022. This makes him the oldest known land animal alive today (sic)."

Fact Check

The tortoise in the viral photo is not the 189-year-old Jonathan.

NewsMeter first tried to find Jonathan's age. Through a keyword search, we found a report by the Guinness World Records that was published on 27 February 2019. It said Jonathan was born in 1832, five years prior to the coronation of Queen Victoria. "Jonathan is due to turn 187 years old in 2019. That makes him the oldest-known land animal alive today," the report said.

"Considering his great age, he is already well beyond his kind's 150-year average lifespan, Jonathan is in surprisingly good health. He hasn't escaped completely unscathed, though. The world's oldest tortoise is virtually blind due to cataracts and seems to have lost all sense of smell, but retains excellent hearing and a healthy appetite. According to his vet, he still has a good libido too, which is an indicator of sound internal health," the report further said.

Here's a photo of Jonathan the tortoise:

(Source: Guinness World Record.com)


The viral post also falsely claims that Jonathan is a turtle. Tortoises have more rounded and domed shells while turtles have thinner, more water-dynamic shells. One major key difference is that tortoises spend most of their time on land and turtles are adapted for life spent in water. Tortoises have club-like forelegs and 'elephantine' hind legs.

NewsMeter also found that the tortoise in the viral post is a giant Galapagos tortoise just over 50 years old.

We did a Google reverse image search and found a report by The Observers that had debunked a similar viral post with the same picture that claimed the tortoise in the photo was the 344-year-old Alagba, the oldest tortoise in Africa, that had died recently.

In fact, the tortoise was from Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, Australia. The report had quoted the zoo's press officer Mandy Turner who confirmed that the tortoise in the photo was one of theirs. "It's a giant Galapagos tortoise and not an African tortoise. The tortoise in this photo is still living and is just over 50 years old. Galapagos tortoises can live to be about 150 years old," she had said.

We also found a report by Zooborns.com that had published the image on 2 May 2014. The report stated that as a result of a special breeding program, two endangered Galápagos tortoises had hatched at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Australia. The tiny tortoises emerged from their shells on 24 and 26 January, it said.

Evidently, the viral post is misleading as the tortoise in the photo is not the 189-year-old tortoise Jonathan.

Claim Review :   Jonathan the turtle is expected to turn 190 in 2022
Claimed By :  Social Media Users
Fact Check :  Misleading

Tejal Sinha

Tejal Sinha is currently a Fact Checker at NewsMeter. She is pursuing Masters in Journalism and Communication from St Francis College for Women. She is open to learning new things while exploring the road to unbiased journalism. She has also been awarded best report by women journalists, 2021. You can follow Tejal on Twitter @SinhaTejal

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