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After 150-plus years, Gentleman Jonathan gets his privacy

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That’s close enough: an island visitor with one of St Helena’s younger tortoises. In future, they’ll be fenced off

St Helena’s “creakingly old national treasure,” Jonathan the tortoise, will soon be protected from over-enthusiastic tourists, in an effort to extend the long life of the oldest known creature in the world. Work has started on building a fenced walkway at Plantation House to protect its tortoises. 

by St Helena Government writer 

Tortoises are sensitive creatures and, as we all know, Jonathan is getting very old, having famously exceeded his life expectancy of 150 years by probably 30 years or more.

Classic view: Plantation House and distinguished residents

At this great age, his senses and ability to eat are impaired, and we can consider him to be a rather frail old gentleman – one who has good and bad days.

We wish to do everything possible to extend the latter part of Jonathan’s life by protecting his welfare and ensuring that he is not disturbed and stressed.

Unfortunately, this can happen when tour groups all-too-frequently ignore the “two-metre rule” to get that once-in-a-lifetime snapshot with the oldest known living animal on the planet.

Properly caring for Jonathan and his friends means that we must restrict access. As increasing numbers of visitors to the island will naturally wish to see Plantation and St Helena’s most famous animal resident, the impact on the paddock – the tortoise habitat – will become untenable.

Plantation, the tortoises and the paddock are a great asset to tourism and highly photogenic, so we are providing a fenced path that will give fine views across the paddock to the house.

It will also link visitors to the popular forest paths.

The plan has been put together to improve visibility of all five tortoises right across the length of the new walkway.

The new layout has been designed to satisfy visitors while meeting the welfare needs of St Helena’s creakingly old national treasure and his colleagues, David, Emma, Fredrika and Myrtle.

The Great Survivor: how Jonathan turned out not to be extinct
Tortoise Tales

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