A photograph believed to be of Jonathan around 1902 (age of about 70 years old)
|Species||Seychelles giant tortoise|
|Born||Unknown; thought to be in 1832
|Owner||Government of Saint Helena|
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 Plantation House, the official residence of the Governor, 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 5 December 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 known 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 the world's 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.
In February 2014, as part of the Queen's Baton Relay ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the baton visited Saint Helena and Governor Mark Capes, whilst holding the baton, posed for a photo alongside Jonathan in the grounds of Plantation House.
The Saint Helena five pence coin has Jonathan on its reverse.
As at December 2015 Jonathan was reported to be "alive and well". "He’s blind from cataracts, has lost his sense of smell, and so cannot detect food (his fellow giants mug me and can detect the tiniest morsel dropped on the ground), but he has retained excellent hearing."
- Kettle, Sally (13 March 2014). "Meet Jonathan, St Helena's 182-year-old giant tortoise". BBC News. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- "Jonathan the 176-year-old tortoise revealed as world's oldest animal in Boer War photo". Daily Mail (London). 5 December 2008. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
- "Queen's Baton completes busy time on St Helena" (Press release). Jamestown: Government of Saint Helena. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2015.