The ‘Natura Series’ was first introduced in 1994 to celebrate South Africa’s diverse wildlife. Coinciding with South Africa’s 20 year anniversary of democracy, this esteemed collection has become SA Mint’s most sought after collection, winning numerous international awards.
The Leopard (Panthera pardus) is the first coin in SA Mint’s latest collection entitled ‘Nocturnal Hunters.’ The unique Denomination Launch Set comprises four unique depictions capturing typical iconic moments from the Leopard’s Life:
Over the years, a portion of the proceeds generated from each collection of the Natura Series has been ploughed back into conservation and made a significant contribution to the preservation of endangered species. With the launch of the latest coin in the ‘Natura Series’, SA Mint has partnered with the Cape Leopard Trust, who have been instrumental in preserving the leopard’s last stronghold in the Western Cape.
The Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Regarded as the most adaptive of the cats, The African Leopard occurs in more diverse habitats than any of its feline cousins. From Savannah grassland, rainforest and even deserts, The Cape Mountain Leopard is far smaller than its Savannah counterpart and has a distinctly rich golden yellow and black coat that allows it to blend seamlessly into the rugged sandstone mountains of the Western Cape.
Targeted for its luxurious pelt that is still used widely across Africa in cultural ceremonies, the greatest threats facing this solitary and shy creature are habitat loss and persecution from human-wildlife conflict.
The Leopard that was once plentiful across all of South Africa, is now entirely absent from the interior that has become dominated by farming and dwindling numbers in remote montane regions show leopards living at a far lower density than in protected and managed reserves such as Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands.
Listed as ‘near threatened’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red Data List of Threatened Species, the future of the Leopard – already obliterated from West Africa and The Sahel - remains uncertain.
“The Cederberg is a true unfenced wilderness where the Cape Mountain leopard still finds sanctuary. It’s up to us to keep it that way.”
Mint Marking in the Cederberg
To mark the partnership between SA Mint and Cape Leopard Trust, the first 600 limited edition legal tender coins were overstruck at Bakkrans in the Red Cederberg. This remote location that forms part of the Cederberg Conservancy is renowned for its high biodiversity of endemic fauna and flora and is one of the last protected habitats of the Cape Mountain Leopard.
The overstriking of the mint mark took place in an ancient Sandstone Cave overlooking the rugged Cederberg and Tankwa Karoo valley where evidence of the Khoi and San people has been preserved through rock paintings dating back thousands of years.
The Cape Leopard Trust (CLT) has worked tirelessly since 2004 to protect the Cape Mountain Leopard’s last remaining stronghold in the Western Cape.
Research, conservation, education & tourism
This registered non-profit organization has a multi-faceted approach that combines research, conservation, education and tourism to seek out collaborative solutions with local communities that will secure the future of the only apex predator remaining in the region. Through rigorous research involving GPS tracking and educational outreach in the Cederberg, Namaqua, Boland and Gouritz regions of the Karoo, CLT is helping us gain a better understanding of the behaviour of these shy and solitary creatures.
Dr Quinton Martins is the co-founder and CEO of the Cape Leopard Trust. He began his career as a wilderness and photographic safari guide working in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Later, he joined a research project in Central Africa that allowed him to study and photograph many leopards and it is here where his passion and fascination for these elusive creatures began.
Spurred on by the lack of evidence and scientific data, Quinton elected to make the Cape Mountain Leopard the subject of his PhD research. The project was entirely self-funded for the first year, before the Cape Leopard Trust was established in 2004. Since then, the Cederberg Mountains have have not only been the headquarters for the Cape Leopard Trust but also his home.
Only in the Cederberg...
Just 250 kilometres north of Cape Town lies a stark and rugged landscape that has been sculpted by wind and water over millions of years. Its layers of sedimentary rock, sandstone and shale have been a feature in the Cederberg since the breaking up Gondwanaland 130 million years ago, when raging torrents and giant glaciers carved out fertile valleys and left behind strange and forlorn pillars of rocks that glow red and orange with rust. The many iconic rock formations such as Wolfberg Arch and Maltese Cross attract mountain climbing and hiking enthusiasts from around the world and a haunting solitude permeates its more than 180 000 hectares. Not only is the Cederberg the home of the Cape Mountain Leopard but many other plant and animal species that occur nowhere else in the world.
Clanwilliam Cedar Tree
The namesake of the Cedarberg, the Clanwilliam Cedar Tree was once plentiful in the high mountain slopes of the Cederberg Mountains where it only grows at an elevation of between 1200 and 1700 metres above sea-level. Targeted for its strong hard wood, it was heavily exploited between 1903 and 1973 for construction, providing virtually all of the first electricity and telephone poles in the area and is now regarded as endangered. It has been protected for the last forty years and many reforestation programmes are contributing to growing them from seed to sapling, when they are planted in a narrow window between May and June.
The infamous tea derived from the soft green needle-like leaves of a shrub-like bush (Aspalathus linearis) is drunk in more than 60 countries around the world for its high anti-oxidant value and caffeine free properties. It is not known who first discovered that a tasty brew resulted when the leaves were slightly bruised and left to ferment in the sun until they turned fire red, but today Redbush tea is a global brand deriving from a plant that grows only in the Cederberg.
Cape Floral Kingdom
There are only 6 known Floral Kingdoms in the world and the Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest of these, achieving World Heritage Status in 2004. It is the only Floral Kingdom to occur entirely in a single country and represents over 8700 different plant species that occur nowhere else in the world. Extending from Table Mountain to Namaqua in the north, it encompassing Fynbos, Renosterveld and Nama Karoo, and east towards the great arid expanse of the Karoo where the Succulent Karoo and Thicket biomes miraculously thrive in the dry dust with very little rain.
The Fynbos biome marked by Restias, Ericas and Proteas gives way to Mountain Renosterveld in the Cederberg, where daisies signal your arrival and strange endemic plants such as the Waboom (wagontree), Clanwilliam Daisy, Snow Protea and Clanwiliam Cedar Tree ( Widdringtronia cedarbergensis) are the only place in the world they grow.
KhoiSan Rock Paintings
Testament to the age and heritage of the area, the Cederberg has the highest density of KhoiSan Rock Art than any other region in Southern Africa. While some examples date back as far as 28 000 years, rock painting in the Cederberg are believed to be up to 8 000 years old and tell a story of a time when iconic animals such as eland, elephant and springbok were once prolific in the area.
The San hunter-gathers and later the Khoi who are the Cape’s earliest stock herders are regarded as the earliest inhabitants of Southern Africa and original people from whom many communities in the area can trace their ancestry.
The San (also referred to as Bushmen) held a deeply spiritual bond with their environment, always showing animals larger than human figures and often portraying half human half animal figures called therianthropes in their depictions and documenting strange religious ceremonies that we have come to understand as trance dances and hunting rituals.
The pigments used to colour the walls of the sandstone caves in the Cederberg were gathered from nature and included charcoal, manganese oxide, white clay and ochre that were bonded with egg, blood or animals fat to forge a lasting paint that has allowed us to see backwards in time and follow their stories.
Cape Mountain Zebra
While Plains Zebra or Burchell’s Zebra occur in vast numbers across the wide rolling plains of African Savannah and grasslands, from the Masaai Mara to the Lowveld, its lesser known cousin, the Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra zebra) can only be found in the mountainous rocky outcrops of the Western Cape.
It was almost pushed to the brink of extinction in the 1940s when severe pressure from unsustainable hunting and agriculture fragmented the last remaining breeding herds.
Today, the population remains fragile with only 2000 Cape Mountain Zebra counted. Much like their portlier counterparts, they have black and white stripes that are as unique as a human fingerprint but lack the interval grey shadow strip and have a distinctive fold under the throat called a dewlap.
Gone from the Cederberg
The rock painting of the San have provided us with a valuable testament of what species previously thrived in the area. Only taking what they needed, the San are the true forefathers of the concept of sustainability. One legend goes that if a Bushman Hunter passed a bush with only three berries, he would eat only one, leaving the other for a hungry hunter that may be behind him and leaving the tree a chance to germinate with the last berry. Already the elephant, brown hyena have been wiped from the Cederberg with only remnant populations of eland and Springbok that some accounts by the early Settlers tell of taking days to pass amounting to millions of individuals that may today only number a few hundred.
If we are to avoid the same fate for the Cape Mountain Leopard that is the last remaining apex predator in the region, then we will have allowed the demise of a delicate balance to unravel. It’s up to us to ensure their legacy.
Visit the Online Auction page to see how you can contribute to the conservation of the Cape Mountain Leopard by purchasing the Leopard Coin and contributing to the ongoing work of the Cape Leopard Trust.
Wedged into the historically preserved alleys of Cape Town’s city bowl at 71 Waterkant Street, Hemelhuijs that translates from Dutch to “Heaven’s House’ is a transformative space that offers ever-changing interiors, whimsical displays that capture the mood of the season and serves exceptional food that honour local ingredients and heirloom recipes.
A man of many talents that traverse kitchen alchemy, interior design and decorating, Jaques Erasmus is the brainchild behind the mosaic of artistic installations and beautiful food that invite patrons to dwell on the nostalgia of childhood recipes while dining in elegance and sophistication.
"It is at the crack of dawn each day that we add the happiness of bubbling yeast to flour. Strong hands knead soft dough and heirloom bread tins are gently filled to the brim with the day's manna – in anticipation of a warm oven. The coffee grinder groans with the perfume of coffea rubusta and citrus fruits sacrifice their last moments of wholeness…"
Signature Leopard Dish
As the venue for the prestigious launch of the Leopard Coin, Chef Jaques Erasmus has assembled a dish that borrows from the textures, colours and flavours of the Cederberg and the terroir of the Cape Mountain Leopard. From 3-14 November 2014, the Spring Menu will feature a signature dish of Sandveld Gnocchi, Smoked Aubergine & Blackened Quail Allowing patrons to learn more about the launch of the Leopard Coin and join the Online Auction.