94% of the British endemic species lie within its Overseas Territories and of the 1,547 species, St Helena holds the majority of over 500, and rising. From the tiny Blushing Snail to the world’s oldest living land mammal, St Helena nurtures an incredible inventory of unique wildlife of which are surrounded by a contrast of breath-taking natural views.
St Helena’s isolation over the 12 to 14 million years since its emergence from the sea has resulted in such flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. With a surface area of just 47 sq. miles (122km²) of St Helena holds roughly 30% of all endemic species to be found in the UK and the British Overseas Territories.
Whether you are hiking to the highest peak on island, or snorkelling in our warm waters, you are sure to be amazed by the natural beauty of St Helena.
Meet Jonathan The Tortoise
Jonathan is St Helena’s oldest resident, by far. It is estimated that Jonathan is around 180 years old, making him not just St Helena’s oldest Saint, but quite possibly the world’s oldest reptile.
There are four tortoises at Plantation House, the Governor’s residence: Jonathan, who it is thought arrived in 1882, David and Emma in 1969 and Fredrika, in 1972.
In 1997 the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles, launched a worldwide search of private and public collections, and rediscovered two of the species formally considered extinct. Jonathan has been identified as a Seychelles Giant Tortoise. As such he is a solitary example of a handful of survivors existing in the world.
Plantation House is open for tours every Tuesday at 11am with a special opportunity to step into the paddock and take a selfie with Jonathan – as long as you don’t touch! Take a walk through the island’s history and meet the Jonathan, possibly the oldest living animal in the world.
Jonathan The Tortoise
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The Flora of St Helena is particularly diverse, with hundreds of endangered endemic species. In recent years there has been a program to conserve and replant the great forest on the island which was destroyed over the years. The Millennium Forest project has been successful and the forest is expanding rapidly. More information on the Millennium Forest can be found on the St Helena National Trust website.
St Helena harbours at least 45 species of plants unknown anywhere else in the world.
Today there are three major vegetation zones: the tree-fern thicket of the highest parts of the central ridge (central peaks). Of these, only the tree-fern thicket is a natural vegetation type. The middle elevations were formerly covered with native woodland of gumwoods (Commidendrum – St Helena’s national tree) and other trees, now largely destroyed. The barren “Crown wastes” were formerly covered with native scrub, of which a major component was probably St Helena ebony (Trochetiopsis ebenus and Trochetiopsis melanoxylon).
As well as the intrigue of endemic flora, St Helena hosts many other beautiful, exotic plants. The arum lilly (St. Helena’s national flower) is grown naturally in the wild and can be found near the banks of roadsides of the Sandy Bay Ridges, or Casons and Bluehill areas.