By Farzad Ghotaslou – Art in Tanzania, Internship Project
N’Gorongoro is every week destination for Art in Tanzania safari participants. The world-famous crater is part of Serengeti safari and also time to time destination of it own or combined to the visit to Tarangire and Lake Manyara National parks.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, national conservation area in the Arusha region of northern Tanzania, southeast of Serengeti National Park. Occupying some 3,200 square miles (8,300 square km), it extends over part of the Eastern (Great) Rift Valley of eastern Africa and contains a variety of habitats and landscapes, including grassland plains, savanna woodlands, forests, mountains, volcanic craters, lakes, rivers, and swampland.
Ngorongoro Crater, one of the world’s largest unbroken calderas, is the most prominent feature of the park. Also located there are the major archaeological sites of Olduvai Gorge and Laetolil, within which were found hominin remains dating from 2.1 million and 3.6 million years ago, respectively.
The area’s main volcanic formations, including Ngorongoro Crater and the volcanoes Olmoti and Empakaai, formed from 20 million to 2 million years ago. Empakaai Crater is noted for the deep soda lake that occupies nearly half of its caldera floor.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area is host to the largest ungulate herds in the world, including gnu (wildebeests), plains zebras, and Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles. Predatory animals include lions, spotted hyenas, leopards, and cheetahs. The endangered black rhinoceros and African hunting dog can also be found there. Notable among more than 400 species of birds in the area are flamingos, silvery-cheeked hornbills, superb starlings, and bronze and tacazze sunbirds.
Ngorogoro was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979. Although cultivation is not permitted within the area, some 25,000 to 40,000 Masai are allowed to graze their livestock there. Issues of concern during the latter part of the 20th century were the damage to the ecosystem caused by overgrazing and tourism vehicles and the diminishing of black rhinoceros, leopard, and elephant populations because of poaching.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area spans vast expanses of highland plains, savanna, savanna woodlands and forests, from the plains of the Serengeti National Park in the north-west, to the eastern arm of the Great Rift Valley. The area was established in 1959 as a multiple land use area, with wildlife coexisting with semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists practicing traditional livestock grazing.
It includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera, and Olduvai Gorge, a 14km long deep ravine. The property has global importance for biodiversity conservation in view of the presence of globally threatened species such as the black Rhino, the density of wildlife inhabiting the Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding areas throughout the year, and the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra, Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles and other ungulates into the northern plains.
The area has been subject to extensive archaeological research for over 80 years and has yielded a long sequence of evidence of human evolution and human-environment dynamics, collectively extending over a span of almost four million years to the early modern era.
This evidence includes fossilized footprints at Laetoli, associated with the development of human bipedalism, a sequence of diverse, evolving hominin species within Olduvai gorge, which range from Australopiths such as Zinjanthropus boisei to the Homo lineage that includes Homo habilis, Homo erectus and Homo sapiens; an early form of Homo sapiens at Lake Ndutu; and, in the Ngorongoro crater, remains that document the development of stone technology and the transition to the use of iron.
The overall landscape of the area is seen to have the potential to reveal much more evidence concerning the rise of anatomically modern humans, modern behavior and human ecology.
The Area has yielded an exceptionally long sequence of crucial evidence related to human evolution and human-environment dynamics, collectively extending from four million years ago to the beginning of this era, including physical evidence of the most important benchmarks in human evolutionary development.
Although the interpretation of many of the assemblages of Olduvai Gorge is still debatable, their extent and density are remarkable. Several of the type fossils in the hominin lineage come from this site. Furthermore, future research in the property is likely to reveal much more evidence concerning the rise of anatomically modern humans, modern behavior, and human ecology.
The stunning landscape of Ngorongoro Crater combined with its spectacular concentration of wildlife is one of the greatest natural wonders of the planet. Spectacular wildebeest numbers (well over 1 million animals) pass through the property as part of the annual migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti ecosystem and calve in the short grass plains which straddle the Ngorongoro Conservation Area/Serengeti National Park boundary. This constitutes a truly superb natural phenomenon.
Ngorongoro crater is the largest unbroken caldera in the world. The crater, together with the Olmoti and Empakaai craters are part of the eastern Rift Valley, whose volcanism dates back to the late Mesozoic / early Tertiary periods and is famous for its geology. The property also includes Laetoli and Olduvai Gorge, which contain an important palaeontological record related to human evolution.
The variations in climate, landforms and altitude have resulted in several overlapping ecosystems and distinct habitats, with short grass plains, highland catchment forests, savanna woodlands, montane long grass plains and high open moorlands. The property is part of the Serengeti ecosystem, one of the last intact ecosystems in the world which harbors large and spectacular animal migrations
In relation to natural values, the grasslands, and woodlands of the property support very large animal populations, largely undisturbed by cultivation at the time of inscription. The wide-ranging landscapes of the property were not impacted by development or permanent agriculture at the time of inscription.
The integrity of the property is also enhanced by being part of Serengeti – Mara ecosystem. The property adjoins Serengeti National Park (1,476,300 ha), which is also included on the World Heritage List as a natural property. Connectivity within and between these properties and adjoining landscapes, through functioning wildlife corridors is essential to protect the integrity of animal migrations.
No hunting is permitted in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), but poaching of wildlife is a continuing threat, requiring effective patrolling and enforcement capacity. Invasive species are a source of ongoing concern, requiring continued monitoring and effective action if detected.
Tourism pressure is also of concern, including in relation to the potential impacts from increased visitation, new infrastructure, traffic, waste management, disturbance to wildlife and the potential for introduction of invasive species.
The property provides grazing land for semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists. At the time of inscription an estimated 20,000 Maasai were living in the property, with some 275,000 head of livestock, which was considered within the capacity of the reserve.
No permanent agriculture is officially allowed in the property. Further growth of the Maasai population and the number of cattle should remain within the capacity of the property, and increasing decentralization, local overgrazing and agricultural encroachment are threats to both the natural and cultural values of the property.
There were no inhabitants in Ngorongoro and Empaakai Craters or the forest at the time of inscription in 1979.
The property encompasses not only the known archaeological remains but also areas of high archaeo-anthropological potential where related finds might be made. However, the integrity of specific paleo-archaeological attributes and the overall sensitive landscape are to an extent under threat and thus vulnerable due to the lack of enforcement of protection arrangements related to grazing regimes, and from proposed access and tourist related developments at Laetoli and Olduvai Gorge.
The primary legislation protecting the property is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Ordinance of 1959. The property is under the management of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA). The Division of Antiquities is responsible for the management and protection of the paleo-anthropological resources within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. A memorandum of understanding should be established and maintained to formally establish the relations between the two entities.
Property management is guided by a General Management Plan. Currently, the primary management objectives are to conserve the natural resources of the property, protect the interests of the Maasai pastoralists, and to promote tourism.
The management system and the Management Plan need to be widened to encompass an integrated cultural and natural approach, bringing together ecosystem needs with cultural objectives to achieve a sustainable approach to conserving the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including the management of grasslands and the archaeological resource, and to promote environmental and cultural awareness.
The Plan needs to extend the management of cultural attributes beyond social issues and the resolution of human-wildlife conflicts to the documentation, conservation and management of the cultural resources and the investigation of the potential of the wider landscape in archaeological terms.
Vehicle access to the crater and other popular areas of the property requires clear limits to protect the quality of experience of the property and to ensure natural and cultural attributes are not unduly disturbed. Developments and infrastructure for tourism or management of the property that impinge on its natural and cultural attributes should not be permitted.
Considering the important relationship, in natural terms of the property to adjoining reserves, it is important to establish effective and continuing collaboration between the property, Serengeti National Park, and other areas of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem to assure connectivity for wildlife migrations, and harmonize management objectives regarding tourism use, landscape management and sustainable development.
4.Unesco official website