The image is real, in the sense of being not photoshopped or otherwise digitally manipulated. It dates from September 2011 when the Nyiregyhaza Animal Park (also known as the Sosto Zoo) in Hungary was showing off the eight baby African spurred tortoises that had recently been born there. The photographer put one of the babies on the head of its mother, and snapped a few photos, and these made their way into a variety of media sources.
Biologically speaking, it’s not impossible for a tortoise mother to be 140 years old. In an older part of the Museum of Hoaxes, I have the Gullibility Test, which I posted a long time ago (I think it was around 2001). One of the questions on this test was: “Turtles never die of old age — True or False?”
The answer was, it’s true.
Turtles [and tortoises] exhibit what is known as ‘negligible senescence.’ Unlike humans, they do not continue to age once their bodies reach maturity. In theory, they might be able to live forever, though in practice this would never happen.
Injury, predation, or disease eventually kill them. But turtles have been known to live beyond 150 years without exhibiting any signs of old age. Fish and amphibians also share this enviable characteristic.