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Ham the chimp was the first hominid in space and, thankfully, his is a happier tale than that of the first dog, who’s mentioned further down this list. Named after the Holloman Aerospace Medical Centre, he was one of six monkeys trained to pull levers in response to flashing lights during a spaceship flight. Ham was the one who was chosen by NASA to be launched into space in a Mercury capsule. The journey he undertook on January 31, 1961 was short, but he still managed to travel 155 miles (250 km) in 16.5 minutes. The flight was abandoned because of a problem with the oxygen supply, and Ham was recovered some three hours after he landed, apparently none the worse for his trip; he even ate an apple and half an orange when he exited the rocket. Ham went on to live in the National Zoo in Washington DC for the next 17 years of life.
2. Elsa the Lioness
Elsa the lioness first came to the world’s attention with the publication of the book “Born Free,” by naturalist Joy Adamson. The lion cub didn’t have a great start to life; her mother was killed by Joy’s game warden husband George, to stop an attack on him. The Adamsons thankfully took the cub and her siblings in, keeping Elsa and sending the others to a zoo. The young lioness lived the life of a domesticated pet, but Joy was determined to give her a life in the wild, gradually introducing her to the world of game reservations. Elsa had three cubs, who probably became fully adjusted to their life in the wild, but Elsa unfortunately died at an early age, succumbing at the age of five to a tick-born disease called babesia. George Adamson and his scouts fired 20 volleys of shots over Elsa’s grave at her burial.
8. Jonathan the Tortoise
Jonathan the tortoise is at least 179 years old, and the world’s oldest living animal. This is difficult to verify, though there is photographic evidence to help shore up the claim. The photograph was taken during the Boer War in 1900, on the island of St Helena which he still calls home. He was at least 50 years old at the time, and might well have been 70, so 179 is his minimum age. Jonathan enjoys life with five companion tortoises and, although sightless in one eye, age hasn’t worn him down too much. He loves attention, and is still feisty enough to be able to make amorous advances toward his younger female friends.