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Jonathan the tortoise and Dr Joe Hollins

Jonathan’s new diet makes the news

How are the New Year resolutions going? What about the diet? Take heart from the story of St Helena’s oldest resident, Jonathan the tortoise, who made it into the Daily Mail last week with his new regime…

At the age of 183, the world’s oldest living animal has been put on a diet by the island’s vet, Dr Joe Hollins, after his health declined due to losing his eyesight and sense of smell.

The new high-calorie diet includes apples, carrots, cucumbers, bananas and guava, saving Jonathan having to scrape around for twigs and leaves.

Jonathan has gained weight and become more active thanks to the change.

According to Dr Joe, Jonathan has a voracious appetite.

Jonathan the tortoise

“He loves bananas, but they do tend to gum him up, especially if very ripe, so I usually follow through with strips of cucumber to push the banana off the roof of his mouth and lubricate his throat,” he explains.

“Frankly there is little he doesn’t seem to enjoy, though it is conspicuous that he finds lettuce heart quite delicious. He also has an acquired taste for loquats and Brazilian guavas, as there is a tree of each in the paddock, and when in season all the tortoises hang around under them waiting for the fruits to drop.”

Joe, who has been looking after Jonathan since he came to St Helena in 2009, sought advice from authorities in the Seychelles (where Jonathan originates from) and also from Bristol Zoo (who keep many of these leviathans), before starting to feed him supplements, but had no idea what a difference it would make.

Jonathan the tortoise and Dr Joe Hollins

As well as Jonathan, Joe looks after the island’s cats and dogs as well as rabbits, sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, pigs and chickens, the occasional guinea pig and St Helena’s sole hamster. But he’s no stranger to more unusual patients.

“I once treated a baby elephant at the Government Elephant Orphanage in Kandy, Sri Lanka,” he says. “I had to give it 5 litres of intravenous fluids into its ear standing on a step ladder. I was amazed to find that the downy looking hair on its body was like wire.

“In the Falklands I had the opportunity to treat a few penguins and a black browed albatross – amazing wing span. But one of the best things I have done was to capture and relocate a herd of reindeer.”



2 Responses

  • Steven Johnson

    Jonathan has really been round the world. Never new there were Reindeer on the Falklands. Its good for the animals to have Jonathan. I think I got fairly near you in 1971 whilst on HMS Eagle going to Cape Town and we were trying to find a lost yacht, no luck. Steve

  • John Watts

    It would be most appreciated if Dr Joe could sort out an appropriate diet for me, too. I don’t expect to live as long as Jonathan, but a chunk of extra life would go down well! Hoping to visit you in May.


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