Ngorongoro: World Heritage Site

Name ID 448

See also

Hanby, Jeannette & Bygott, David Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Page Number: 13
Extract Date: 1978

Ngorongoro made World Heritage Site

Ngorongoro made World Heritage Site

Extract ID: 713

See also

World Conservation Monitoring Centre Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Extract Date: 1997 June 26

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

COUNTRY Tanzania

NAME Ngorongoro Conservation Area


VI (Managed Resource Protected Area)

Biosphere Reserve

Natural World Heritage Site - Criteria ii, iii, iv

BIOGEOGRAPHICAL PROVINCE 3.05.04 (East African Woodland/savanna)

GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION In the Arusha Region of northern Tanzania, south-east of Serengeti National Park. 2�30'-3�30'S, 34�50'-35�55'E

DATE AND HISTORY OF ESTABLISHMENT 1959 by Ordinance No. 413 as amended by the Game Parks Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act No. 14 of 1975. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979. Internationally recognised as a part of Serengeti-Ngorongoro Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme in 1981.

AREA 828,800ha; contains the World Heritage site (809,440ha); contiguous to Serengeti National Park (1,476,300ha) and close to Lake Manyara National Park (32,500ha). Contained by the biosphere reserve which covers 2,305,100ha.

LAND TENURE Government

ALTITUDE Under 1,500m to 3,648m

PHYSICAL FEATURES The open plains of the eastern Serengeti rise to the crater highlands of the volcanic massifs of Loolmalasin (3,587m) and Oldeani (3,168m) dating from the late Mesozoic-early Tertiary period. Ngorongoro Crater is one of the largest inactive unbroken calderas in the world which is unflooded. It has a mean diameter of 16-19km, a crater floor of 26,400ha, and a rim soaring to 400-610m above the crater floor. The formation of the crater and other highlands are associated with the massive rifting which occurred to the west of the Gregory Rift Valley. The conservation area also includes Empakaai Crater and Olduvai Gorge, famous for geology and associated palaeotological studies. The highland forests form an important water-catchment for surrounding agricultural communities.

CLIMATE Because of the great amplitude in relief and the dynamics of air masses, there is a great variation in the climate of the area. In the highlands, it is generally moist and misty, and temperatures in the semi-arid plains can be as low as 2�C, but can often go up to 35�C. Rainfallis seasonal and follows the altitudinal gradient. Annual precipitation varies from under 500mm on the arid plains in the west, to 1700mm along the forested slopes in the east.

VEGETATION A variable climate and diverse landforms and altitudes have resulted in several distinct habitats. Scrub heath and the remains of dense montane forests cover the steep slopes. The crater floor is mainly open grassy plains with alternating fresh and brackish water lakes, swamps and two patches of Acacia woodland; Lerai Forest, comprising dominant tree species Acacia xanthophloea and Rauwolfia caffra; and Laiyanai Forest with Cassipourea malosana, Albizzia gummifera, and Acacia lahai. The area includes undulating plains covered in grass, which become almost desert during periods of severe drought. These grass and shrublands are rich and support very large animal populations and are relatively untouched by cultivation. The upland woodlands contain Acacia lahai and A. seyal and perform a critical watershed protection function.

FAUNA There is a large population of wild ungulates in the crater including: wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus (LR)(7,000 estimated in 1994), zebra Equus burchelli (4,000), eland Taurotragus oryx, gazelles Gazella granti (LR) and G. thomsoni (LR)(3,000), black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis (CR) (These have declined from approximately 108 in 1964-66, to 10 in 1990 to between 11-14 in 1995 Moehlman et al., 1996), and hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius (very uncommon in the area). The crater also has the densest known population of lion Panthera leo (VU) (estimated 68 in 1987). On the crater rim are buffalo Syncerus caffer (LR) numbering 4,000 in 1994, elephant Loxodonta africana (EN) numbering 29 in 1992 (Said et al., 1995), mountain reedbuck Redunca fulvorufula (LR) and leopard Panthera pardus. Serengeti migrants, including 1.7 million wildebeest, 260,00 zebra and 470,000 gazelles (Leader-Williams et al., 1996) are numerous on the plains. Waterbuck Kobus ellipsiprymnus (LR) mainly occur near Lerai Forest, while serval Felis serval occur widely in the crater as a whole and on the plains to the west. Particularly common in the reserve are lion Panthera leo (VU), hartebeest Alcelaphus buselaphus (LR), and spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta (LR). Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus (VU), though common in the reserve as a whole, are scarce in the crater itself. Wild dog Lycaon pictus (EN) has recently disappeared from the crater and may have declined elsewhere in the Conservation Areas as well. Golden cat Felis aurata has recently been seen in the Ngorongoro forest. Birds include ostrich Struthio camelus, kori bustard Choriotis kori, possibly lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus, Verreaux's eagle Aquila verreauxii, Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus, rosy-breasted longclaw Macronyx ameliae and lesser flamingo Phoeniconaias minor (LR)(on the lake in Ngorongoro crater and Lake Ndutu). Sunbirds in the highland forest include golden winged sunbird Nectarinia reichenowi and eastern double collared sunbird N. mediocris. Papilio sjoestedti (LR), sometimes known as the Kilimanjaro swallowtail, flies in the montane forests of Mt Meru, Mt Kilimanjaro and Ngorongoro in north-eastern Tanzania. It has a very restricted range but is well protected in national parks (National Park Service, pers. comm., 1995).

CULTURAL HERITAGE The NCA has palaeotological and archaeological sites over a wide range of dates. The four major sites are: Olduvai gorge, Laetoli site, Lake Ndutu site, and the Nasera Rock Shelter. The variety and richness of the fossil remains, including those of early hominids, has made Ngorongoro one of the major areas in the world for research on the evolution of the human species. Olduvai Gorge has produced valuable remains of early hominidsincluding Australopithecus boisei (Zinthanthropus) and Homo habilis as well as fossil bones of many extinct animals. Nearby, at Laetoli, fossil hominid footprints of Pliocene age have been found.

LOCAL HUMAN POPULATION There is considerable controversy about the exact number of people in the NCA partly because pastoral people, being mobile, are difficult to enumerate. In 1994, the Natural Peoples World (NPW) estimated the Maasai population to be about 40,000 (one quarter of those living in Tanzania), with some 300,000 head of livestock which graze approximately 70-75% of the conservation area. However, Leader-Williams et al.(1996) put the figure at 26,000 Pastoralists and 285,000 head of cattle. There are no inhabitants in Ngorongoro and Empaakai Craters or the forest (National Park Service, pers. comm., 1995).

VISITORS AND VISITOR FACILITIES There are four lodges on the crater rim and one at Ndutu, and vehicles and guides can be hired from the Authority to go into the crater. There is an interpretive centre at Olduvai, which focuses on the interpretation of the Gorge and its excavations. Another centre, at the Lodoare entrance, is in the final stages of construction (National Park Service, pers. comm., 1995). About 24% of all tourists visiting the parks of northern Tanzania stop at Ngorongoro, totalling 35,130 in 1983. Visitor numbers have substantially increased since 1984, reaching more than 77,000 in 1987, of whom 36,000 were Tanzanian nationals (Kayera, n.d.).

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES Various studies based at Seronera Wildlife Research Centre (formerly known as the Serengeti Research Institute) include monitoring of climate, vegetation and animal populations. The level of research into human and range ecology is low. Long-term studies in the crater have been on lion behaviour, serval behaviour, and on rhinoceros and elephant behaviourial ecology (SWRC, 1993). From 1988, the Ngorongoro Ecological Monitoring Programme has been individually identifying black rhinoceros, and monitoring breeding and movement patterns (Moehlman et al., 1996). Seronera Research Centre in the contiguous National Park provides a research station and accommodation for scientists. There is a small research cabin within the crater.

CONSERVATION VALUE Ngorongoro is one of the largest inactive, unbroken and unflooded calderas in the world. The conservation area has one of Africa'a largest wildlife conglomerations. It is home to a small and isolated relict of the black rhino population which was once a common and widespread group across southern and eastern africa.

CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT The Ngorongoro was first established as a conservation area to benefit the Maasai. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Ordinance of 1959 created the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) which was charged with ensuring multiple land use there to assist in conserving and developing the areas natural resources, and promoting local interests. However it failed to function because of lack of rapport between government officials and the Maasai. By 1960, a draft management plan was prepared, which was revised in 1962 and further reviewed. In 1961, the Prime Minister Julius Nyere issued the Arusha Manifesto. The Tanzanian government conducted a pioneer experiment in multiple land use (one of few such areas in Africa) which attempted to reconcile the interests of wildlife, Maasai Pastoralists, and conservation. The 1975 Ngorongoro Conservation Area Ordinance stipulatesthe objectives of the areas as follows: the conservation and development of the NCA's natural resources; the promotion of tourism; and the safeguarding and promotion of the interests of the Maasai. However, cultivation was banned in 1976 due to incompatibility with wildlife conservation. Following the Serengeti Workshop, convened by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in December 1985, the Government of Tanzania/IUCN initiated a Development Project. The principal objectives were to identify the requirements for long-term conservation of the area by assessing land use pressures in, and adjacent to the conservation area; determining development needs of resident Pastoralists; reviewing and evaluating management options; formulating conservation and development policies to fulfil the needs of both local Maasai people and conservation priorities; and to develop proposals for follow-up activities (IUCN, 1987). Since the problems were identified, the NCAA has been setting more funds aside for appropriate solutions, and the relationship between the residents and the NCAA has been improved with the establishment of a Community Development Department and a joint Management/Resident Representative Council (Leader-Williams et al., 1996).

Some animals, such as buffalo, wildebeest and zebra migrate out of the crater during periods of drought and considerable effort is being made to prevent the migration routes from being encroached upon by settlements and agricultural developments. The contiguous and nearby protected areas provide key feeding grounds for a number of species that migrate seasonally, for example wildebeest, zebra and Thomson's gazelle. Efforts have been made to control poaching with the aid of FZS, AWF, TWPF, WWF, and the police. IUCN/WWF Project 1934 was set up in 1981 to combat poaching of rhinoceros in the Lake Eyasi area. Two vehicles and radios were provided. The NCAA produce up to 40,000 tree seedlings annually in an attempt to reduce pressure on natural forest for fuel wood.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area Management Plan proposals have been submitted but have been rejected by the Chief Conservator because the proposed plan is regarded as going beyond its terms of reference.

MANAGEMENT CONSTRAINTS About five percent of the area has been degraded by trampling and overgrazing, and there is a threat from vehicle-tracks becoming excessively enlarged, principally due to tourism pressure. Poaching, mainly of black rhinoceros and leopards, occurs and is difficult to suppress effectively due to the lack of equipment and fuel, low morale and rough terrain. According to Moehlman et al. (1996), due to it's small size, the rhinoceros population is extremely vulnerable to poaching, and faces genetic threats from inbreeding and loss of genetic variation.

The spread of the malignant catarrh fever disease, which kills cattle (although it has little effect on wildebeest) has been reduced as wildebeest numbers have decreased from 1.3 million to 7,000. There is a problem with securing water supplies, arising from the neglect of dams, boreholes and pipelines installed during the 1950s and 1960s. Grassland areas are degrading with the spread of unpalatable grass and other species, and poorly controlled or inappropriate burning. The forests to the north-east are increasingly threatened by fuel wood gathering, both by people living in the conservation area and in villages in the Karatu and Kitete areas along the eastern boundary. A number of poorer Maasai from the conservation area make a living collecting honey from wild bee colonies in the forest, frequently burning trees in the process.

Land-use conflicts have increased in recent years as the Maasai have become more sedentary. This is due to a decrease in human:livestock ratios during the 1970s and 80s which occurred because of an increasing population and a decline in livestock. This decline was exacerbated by inadequate vetinary services, which the NCAA had difficulties providing as income from tourism decreased (Leader-Williams et al., 1996). In response to food scarcity, local residents were allowed to practise cultivation on a temporary basis. Much of this has taken place on areas totally unsuitable for agriculture. Encroachment on the slopes of Empakaai near Nayobi and Kapenjiro has been so extensive that they may be excised from the conservation area. Such activities have had a serious impact on water catchment values, vegetation cover and wildlife (J. Thorsell, pers. comm., 1993). Priorities have been identified by the community including food security, livestock health and infrastructural developments such as improvements to the water supply. These have been addressed in order to try to solve conflicts (Leader-Williams et al., 1996).

STAFF Some 360 staff (1994) (National Park Service, pers. comm., 1995).

BUDGET Ninety-two per cent of the budget is derived from visitor entrance fees (undated information).


Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, PO Box 1, Ngorongoro Crater, Arusha


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Arhem, K., Homewood, K. and Rodgers, A. (1981). A Pastoral Food System: The Ngorongoro Maasai in Tanzania (Bureau of Resource Assessment and Land Use Planning, Dar-es-Salaam).

Arhem, K. (1981). Maasai Pastoralism in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area; Sociological and Ecological Issues (Bureau of Resource Assessment and Land Planning. Dar-es-Salaam).

Dirschl, H.J. (1966). Management and Development Plan for Ngorongoro (Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Wildlife).

Eggeling, W.J. (1962). The Management Plan for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority. Ngorongoro Crater).

Estes, R.D. and Small, R. (1981). The large herbivore populations of Ngorongoro Crater. Afr. J. Ecol. 19(1-2): 175-185.

Frame, G.W. (1982). Wild Mammal Survey of Empakaai Crater Area. Tanzanian Notes and Records No. 88 and 89: 41-56. Herlocher, D. and Dirschl, H.J. (1972). Vegetation Map. Canadian Wildlife Services, Report Series 19.

Homewood, K.M. and Rodgers, W.A. (1984). Pastoralist Ecology in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania. Pastoralist Development Network Bulletin of the Overseas Development Institute, London. No. 17d: 1-27.

IUCN (1985). Threatened Natural Areas, Plants and Animals of the World. Parks 10(1): 15-17.

IUCN (1987). Ngorongoro conservation and development project. Workplan of activities. Unpublished report. 10 pp.

IUCN/WWF Project 1934. Tanzania, Anti-poaching camp, Lake Eyasi.

Kayera, J.A. (not dated). Balancing conservation and human needs in Tanzania: the case of Ngorongoro. Unpublished report. 5pp.

Lamotte, M, (1983). The undermining of Mount Nimba. Ambio XII(3-4): 174-179.

Leader-Williams, N., Kayera, J.A.and Overton, G.L., Eds. (1996) Community-based conservation in Tanzania. IUCN Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. ix + 266pp.Moehlman, P.D.; Amato, G.; Runyoro, V. (1996) Genetic and demographic threats to the black rhinoceros population in the Ngorongoro Crater. Conservation Biology 10(4):1107-1114

Mturi, A.A. (1981). The Archaeological and Palaeotological Resources of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Ministry of National Culture and Youth, Dar-es-Salaam).

Prins, H.H.T. (1987). Nature conservation as an integral part of optimal landuse in East Africa: the case of the Masai Ecosystem in Northern Tanzania. Biological Conservation 40: 141-161.

Rodgers, W.A. (1981). A Background Paper for a Revised Management Plan for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (Department of Zoology, University of Dar-es-Salaam).

Saibull, S.A. ole and Carr, R. (1981). Herd and Spear. The life of Pastoralists in transition. Collins, London.

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Saibull, S.A. ole (1978). The Policy Process in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Status of the Area Looked at Critically. Tanzanian Notes and Records No. 83.

Said, M.Y., Chunge, R.N., Craig, G.C., Thouless, C.R., Barnes, R.F.W., Dublin, H.T.(1995) African elephant database, 1995. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, 225 pp.

Serengeti Wildlife Research Centre (1993) Scientific Report 1990-1992 Serengeti Wildlife Research Centre.

Taylor, M. E. (1988). Ngorongoro Conservation Area: a report to IUCN Nairobi. Country Commission. 24 pp.

Thorsell, J. (1985). World Heritage Report - 1984. Parks 10(1): 8-9.

For further information please write to:

Information Officer, World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 219 Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0DL, United Kingdom. Tel: +44 1223 277314; Fax: +44 1223 277136.

General email:

Email for World Heritage enquiries: jim.paine (at)

Document URL: http:// /protected_areas/data/wh/ngorongo.html

Revision date: 26-June-1997

Current date: 6-June-1999

Extract ID: 1414