January: Leopard Moon

The leopard (Panthera pardus) is one of South Africa’s iconic Big Five animals and the second largest of the big cats in South Africa.

Because it is nocturnal it is also one of the more elusive animals to actually see in the wild.

The expansion of human habitation and especially stock farming activities has made the leopard an unwelcome guest in most farming areas and in the past it was indiscriminately shot.

Conservation efforts have ensured that a few leopards still roam the Cederberg and other mountain ranges of the Western Cape. This graceful animal is nevertheless on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species.

For many of the indigenous groups in South Africa, the wearing of a leopard skin is a sign of importance, power and even of royalty reflecting this big cat’s regal appearance and acknowledging its fearlessness, strength and ferocity. Conservation organizations have begun supplying imitation leopard skins to satisfy the needs of this important traditional requirement and thereby reduce the hunting of the leopard.

Place names associated with leopards:
Grootfontein (northern Namibia) was known to the indigenous Herero as Otjivanda-Tjongue meaning ‘hill of the leopardʼ. Just 24 km west of the city lies the Hoba meteorite, the largest known meteorite on Earth. The coat of arms of Grootfontein includes a graphic of a star with a tail, which could represent a comet or a meteor.
Ingwavuma is a town in the Umkhanyakude District Municipality (KwaZulu-Natal Province) south of the Ngwavuma River. The popular interpretation is that ‘Ingwavumaʼ in Zulu means ‘the river is growlingʼ and refers to the roaring of a waterfall or the growling of a leopard (or cheetah). However a leopard in isiZulu is ‘ingweʼ with a final -e and not an -a. It is also possible that the name “ingwavuma” refers to a specific tree (Gymnosporia buxifolia) that is common in the area. There is also an interpretation that the name derives from a local leader in the past whose name was “Vuma” so that the name would then mean “Vuma’s place”.
Kasuka River rises in the hills between Bathurst and Kenton on Sea in the Sarah Baartman District Municipality (Eastern Cape Province) and flows into the Indian Ocean near the small settlement of Kasouga. ‘Kasukaʼ is of KhoiKhoi origin, adapted to isiXhosa, and means ‘many leopardsʼ, and ‘Kasougaʼ means ‘place of many leopardsʼ.
Luipardsvlei (leopard’s marsh) in the West Rand District Municipality (Gauteng Province) is a railway station north of Lewisham. The name is also used for a suburb of Krugersdorp and is derived from the Dutch ‘luipardʼ, ‘leopardʼ and the Afrikaans ‘vleiʼ, ‘marshʼ. The name was first applied to the farm on which a leopard was shot in the vlei.
Luipardskop (leopard’s hillock) in the Emathanjeni Local Municipality (Northern Province) is hill east-south-east of the town of Hanover.
Ngwempisi River in the Gert Sibanda District Municipality (Mpumalanga Province) is a tributary of the Great Usutu. ‘Ingweʼ is ‘leopardʼ and ‘impisiʼ is “wolf” in Zulu. So the name actually means ‘leopard-wolfʼ river in isiZulu. It is believed the name arose after an incident in which cattle were killed by an unknown creature that some thought was a leopard and others thought was a hyena. There is also a railway siding of the same name.
Nkwe is a settlement and post office in the Waterberg District Municipality (Limpopo Province). The name is derived from Sesotho sa Leboa (also referred to as Pedi or Sepedi) and means ‘leopardʼ.
Tierboskop (leopard-bush-hill) is a mountain in the Kgetlengriver local Municipality (North West Province). It is generally assumed to refer to a leopard but it might, in fact refer to a plant known as ‘tierhoutʼ or ‘tigerwoodʼ (Loxostylis alata) growing on the hill. Some have even suggested it might refer to the serval (Felis serval) known in Afrikaans as a ‘tierboskatʼ.
Tierhoek (tiger nook or tiger corner) in the Prince Albert Local Municipality (Western Cape Province) is a valley in the Swartberg Mountains near the town of Klaarstroom. This might actually refer to the cat with the stripes because the Tierhoek Heath, which occurs in the area, has rose coloured flowers with darker red nerves (stripes) reminiscent of a tiger’s stripes.
Tierhoekberg (tiger-corner-mountain or tiger-nook-mountain) in the Umsobomvu Local Municipality (Northern Cape Province) is a mountain near Colesberg.
Tierpoort (tiger pass) in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality (Free State Province) is a hamlet south of Bloemfontein.
Tierpoort Dam (tiger pass dam) in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality (Free State Province ) is close to the hamlet of Tierpoort.
Tiervlei (tiger marsh) in the Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality (Western Cape Province) was a suburb of Cape Town between Parow and Elsiesrivier which is now known as Parowvallei .
Tijgerberg (tiger mountain) in the Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality (Western Cape Province) is a range of hills adjacent to Durbanville, a suburb of Cape Town. Derived from Dutch, it was referred to in 1657 as ‘Gevlekte Luipaertsbergʼ, ‘spotted leopard mountainʼ and in 1660 as ‘Tygersberghʼ. The name is probably derived from the patchy vegetation reminiscent of the colouring of a leopard. Tygerberg is the collective name for the suburbs Goodwood, Parow, Bellville, etc, east of Cape Town as far as Durbanville. Tygerdal (tiger dale) is a township 2 km north west of Goodwood.

Like its namesake, the Leopard Moon is scarce: in the period 2020 – 2050, the Leopard Moon only occurs twice.

Dates of Leopard Moon

2037 Jan 31, 16:00

2048 Jan 31, 02:18

The first Full Moon in January is the Mantis Moon.

Heritage Full Moons in South Africa

MonthFirst Full MoonSecond Full Moon
JanuaryMantis MoonLeopard Moon
FebruaryDassie Moon——
MarchHarvest MoonOchre Moon
AprilDiamond MoonGold Moon
MayFrost MoonFire Moon
JuneSisters MoonHoney Moon
JulyMeerkat MoonProtea Moon
AugustPeace MoonDusty Moon
SeptemberSpring MoonBlue Crane Moon
OctoberWhale MoonElephant Moon
NovemberMilk MoonWool Moon
DecemberSpringbok MoonEland Moon

Protecting South Africa’s astronomical heritage