Giant Tortoise Gets Health Boost After Starting New Diet At Age 183

| by Jordan Smith
Jonathan the TortoiseJonathan the Tortoise

A 183-year-old giant tortoise living on the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic has experienced a dramatic improvement in his health after a local vet put him on a new diet.

Jonathan the tortoise was given to the governor of St. Helena in 1882 as a present when he was about 50 years old, the Daily Mail reports.

But in recent years, he lost his eyesight and sense of smell, making it difficult for him to find food.

“Jonathan has become almost completely blind due to cataracts and has lost his sense of smell,” Dr. Joe Hollins told the Mail. "He was just grabbing at food and ended up chomping on twigs which blunted his beak. He lost weight because of his nutritional deficiencies.

“I changed his diet and started to give him a mixed bowl of fruit and vegetables like apples, carrots, lettuce, guavas and bananas, which are very high in calories.”

The results were positive, as Jonathan’s beak began to grow back.

“His life has been transformed,” Hollins said. "He has put on weight and is a lot more active and is walking more than he used to."

Jonathan is a Seychelles giant tortoise. He lives in an enclosure with four other giant tortoises.

“The life expectancy of a giant tortoise is 150 [years,] but there is no reason why Jonathan won't still be here after we have all gone,” Hollins said.

The most well-known destination to find giant tortoises is the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean, where at one time eight different species lived, according to The New York Times.

Three species became extinct over the years, mainly due to human interference.

However, scientists now hope they can bring one of those species back to life.

George, the last tortoise native to Pinta Island, died in 2012 at over 100 years old. But on an expedition to Isabela Island, scientists found tortoises living there with high levels of Pinta DNA.

They realized that sailors had transported them there over 100 years ago and left them because they were no longer needed.

The scientists now intend to use 17 tortoises with the highest levels of Pinta DNA for a breeding program that they say could produce the re-emergence of full-blooded Pinta tortoises within a few generations.

Sources: Daily Mail, The New York Times / Photo credit: Daily Mail