The king of beasts’ roars with pride on South African Mint’s new offering.

Centurion, South Africa – 1 August 2019: After a packed release schedule during the first half of 2019, the South African Mint, a wholly owned subsidiary of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), has little intention of slowing down as it lets roar the king of beasts on its second coin range in the Big 5 coin program launched earlier this year. The multi-year coin program features wildlife synonymous with Southern Africa.

Issued every six months, the mighty African elephant preceded this new release. The range consists of a Brilliant Uncirculated quality coin struck from 999.9 fine silver and a proof quality version of the same, only available in a double capsule set. Also, part of this series is a 24ct 1oz gold coin, a 1oz fine platinum coin and two combination sets, which will be issued in the coming months.

Of the two combination sets, consistent with the earlier launch, one houses the 1oz silver proof quality lion coin, with a 1oz fine silver proof Krugerrand which bears a special lion privy mark paying homage to the new wildlife series. The second set features a single 1oz 24ct gold proof lion coin and a 1oz 22ct gold proof Krugerrand coin, also bearing a special lion privy mark.

Silver is proving to be a hugely popular choice for collectors, particularly for its affordability. It has both real and numismatic value and was the first choice metal to showcase the Big Five.

Immortalised by folklore and films, the male lion symbolises royalty and strength in some African cultures, while the lioness represents femininity and motherhood. Female lions are primarily responsible for hunting for the pride which takes place from dusk till dawn; while the males, whose roar can be heard over a distance of eight kilometres are responsible for the protection of the pride and patrolling its territory.

Male lions are the only big cats with manes which make them appear larger and even more intimidating. These meticulously designed coins bring out the domineering effect of the male lion’s mane on the obverse of the coin, which features the lion with its steely gaze looking into the distance with a flowing mane which fills up the coin. The obverse also shows the national coat-of-arms in the centre with the words ‘South Africa’ and ‘Big Five 2019’ on either side.

The reverse of the coins features two halves of the lion’s face, detailing its eyes, nose and whiskers surrounded by the mane. This ingenious design allows for a complete close-up of a lion to be seen when two of the coins are placed next to each other (as seen in the double-capsule proof set). When multiple coins are placed next to each other, a pride is formed.

The population of lions has declined precipitously in the wild, down from an estimated 200,000 continent-wide a century ago to only about 20,000 today. News of Cecil-the-lion’s death, killed during a hunting safari in Zimbabwe’s famed Hwange National Park drew international outrage which only precipitated when his son Xanda met a similar fate. This sparked a greater scrutiny of trophy hunting for the heads, skins, or other body parts of wild animals.

While the jury is out on the opposing perspectives of trophy hunters and some conservationists who argue that fees from hunts support conservation efforts for the big cats, whose main threats are habitat loss, prey depletion, and greater conflict with humans, the arguments put forward endorse a myopic view that sees sacrificing a few animals as greater good.

“Shoot with a camera is my advice to tourists who flock to see South Africa’s famed Big Five,” says Tumi Tsehlo, South African Mint’s Managing Director.

“This coin program celebrates the tenacity and fierce spirit of Africa’s wildlife; they are the real born frees and we must endeavour to preserve this natural heritage for the future generations to venerate.”

The Big 5 coins, which are released biannually, will feature the revered rhino and elusive leopard in the next instalment in 2020.

“The Big Five” term originated when big game hunters visited the shores of Africa to shoot for trophies before conservation became a priority. Locals warned these hunters about the five most dangerous animals and soon the hunters themselves had spellbinding stories to tell about these terrifying five. They have become the icons of Africa’s greatest assets – its precious wildlife.