Jonathan was brought to the island from the Seychelles in 1882, along with three other tortoises at about 50 years of age. He was named in the 1930s by Governor Sir Spencer Davis. He continues to live in the grounds of the official residence of the Governor, at Plantation House, and belongs to the government of Saint Helena.
His possible age was realised when a photograph was uncovered from a collection of Boer War images showing a tortoise next to a war prisoner around the year 1900. On December 5, 2008, the Daily Mail published a story claiming Jonathan is the same tortoise pictured in the photograph. If he were about 70 years old at the time of the photo, he could now be the oldest living reptile on earth.
The article erroneously stated Jonathan was of the species Testudinipae cytodira. This appears to be a double misspelling as well as a reference not to his species, but rather to his family, Testudinidae and suborder, Cryptodira respectively.
The all-time verified record holder for oldest tortoise, according to Guinness World Records, is Tui Malila, who died in Tonga in 1965 at the age of 189. Adwaita, an Aldabra giant tortoise that died in 2006 in the Alipore Zoological Gardens of Kolkata, India, is believed to have lived to the age of 255 years, but this has not been confirmed.
The local 5 pence coin has Jonathan on its reverse.
- Dailymail - 176 year old tortoise revealed as world's oldest animal
- World's oldest living animal discovered after he is pictured in 1900 photograph
- Saint Helena government The Tortoises at Plantation House