178-year-old Tortoise is world's oldest living creature...
World's oldest living animal is 178-year-old tortoise called Jonathan
As a photograph it looks fairly unremarkable - a tortoise nibbles at the grass in front of a Boer War prisoner and guard.
7:00AM BST 04 Aug 2011
But the pictures helps to mark the reptile as the oldest animal on the planet.
This rare picture of a Boer war prisoner snapped on the remote island of St Helena, has shed light on one of the planets oldest living inhabitants
Jonathan, the tortoise, is believed to be 178-years-old and was about 70 at the time the black and white picture was taken.
He was photographed during the Boer War around 1900, and his life has spanned eight British monarchs from George IV to Elizabeth II, and 50 prime ministers.
It was taken on the South Atlantic island of St Helena, where Jonathan still lives today, along with five other tortoises David, Speedy, Emma, Fredricka and Myrtle, in a plantation.
The previous oldest tortoise was widely thought to be Harriet, a giant Galapagos Land tortoise, who died in 2005 aged 175 in Australia.
Despite his old age, locals say he still has the energy to regularly mate with the three younger females.
A spokesman for the island's tourist board said Jonathan is owned by the St Helena government and lives in the specially built plantation on the governor's land.
He said: "Jonathan is the sole survivor of three tortoises that arrived on St Helena Island in 1882.
"He was already mature when he arrived and was at least 50-years-old.
"Therefore his minimum age is 178-years-old. He is the oldest inhabitant on St Helena and is claimed to be the oldest living tortoise in the world.
"He lives in the grounds of Plantation House which is the governor's residence with five other tortoises who are much younger than him.
"Apparently he remained nameless for the most part of his residence in St Helena until he was named by Governor Sir Spencer Davis in the 1930s.
"He feeds on the grass of the main paddock.
"Jonathan is still very active despite his age and adores attention, he is a real poser.
"He seems to be sightless in one eye, but does not let that slow him down."
It is thought Jonathan, from the species Testudinipae cytodira, was brought to St Helena from the Seychelles as a mature adult in 1882.
His remarkable existance has come to light after the photograph was discovered as part of a collection of Boer War images taken by a man named L.A. Innes who had a studio in the British overseas territory's capital Jamestown.
The pictures were recently sold at auction for £4,000 by Andrew Smith and Son auctioneers near Winchester, Hants.
Further investigation by the auctioneers revealed the tortoise in the picture was Jonathan who was still alive.
St Helena has a population of more than 4,200. Its greatest claim to fame came when Napoleon was exiled there in 1815.
He was held prisoner there until his death in 1821 and is buried there.
Another tortoise, Timothy, who was a ship's mascot in the Crimean War, died at his home at Powderham Castle, near Exeter, Devon, in 2004, aged 160. The castle's Rose Garden had been his home since 1935.