The Ngorongoro Conservation Area spans vast expanses of highland plains, savanna, savanna woodlands and forests. 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. The property has global importance for biodiversity conservation due to the presence of globally threatened species, the density of wildlife inhabiting the area, and the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and other animals into the northern plains. Extensive archaeological research has also yielded a long sequence of evidence of human evolution and human-environment dynamics, including early hominid footprints dating back 3.6 million years.
Lions (Panthera leo) on the floor of Ngorongoro Crater, May 2007. The 22.5 km (14 mile) wide Crater is home to the world’s highest density of lions—62 were recorded here in 2001.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (809,440 ha) 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 practising traditional livestock grazing. It includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the worldâ€™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, Thompsonâ€™s and Grantâ€™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.
Criterion (iv): Ngorongoro Conservation 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.
Criterion (vii): 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.
Criterion (viii): 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.
Criterion (ix): 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 harbours large and spectacular animal migrations.
Criterion (x): Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to a population of some 25,000 large animals, mostly ungulates, alongside the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa including the densest known population of lion (estimated 68 in 1987). The property harbours a range of endangered species, such as the Black Rhino, Wild hunting dog and Golden Cat and 500 species of birds. It also supports one of the largest animal migrations on earth, including over 1 million wildebeest, 72,000 zebras and c.350,000 Thompson and Grant gazelles.
The property was inscribed under natural criteria (vii), (viii), (ix) and (x) in 1979 and under cultural criterion (iv) in 2010. Thus, the statement of integrity reflects integrity for natural values at the date of inscription of 1979, and for the cultural value in 2010.
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 sedentarisation, 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.
In general, the authenticity of the fossil localities is unquestionable, however given the nature of fossil sites, the context for the fossil deposits needs to remain undisturbed (except by natural geological processes). As the nomination dossier does not contain sufficient detailed information on most of the sites to delineate their extended areas or the areas of archaeological sensitivity, or sufficient guarantees in terms of management arrangements to ensure that the sites will remain undisturbed and not threatened by visitor access, construction or grazing cattle, their authenticity is vulnerable.
Protection and management requirements
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 in order 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.
It is particularly important that NCAA has the capacity and specialist skills to ensure the effectiveness of its multiple-use regime, including knowledge of management of pastoral use in partnership with the Maasai community and other relevant stakeholders. There is also a need for NCAA to ensure staff have skills in natural and cultural heritage to achieve well designed, integrated and effective conservation strategies, including effective planning of tourism, access and infrastructure.
A thorough understanding of the capacity of the property to accommodate human use and livestock grazing is required, based on the needs of the Maasai population and the assessment of the impact of the human populations on the ecosystems and archaeology of the property. An agreed joint strategy between the NCAA, Maasai community leaders as well as other stakeholders, is required to ensure human population levels, and levels of resource use are in balance with the protection of its natural and cultural attributes, including in relation to grazing and grassland management, and the avoidance of human-wildlife conflict. The active participation of resident communities in decision-making processes is essential, including the development of benefit-sharing mechanisms to encourage a sense of ownership of, and responsibility for, the conservation and sustainable use of the property's natural and cultural resources.
An overall tourism strategy for the property is a long term requirement, to both guide the public use of the property and ways of presenting the property, and to prioritize the quality of the tourism experience, rather than the quantity of visitors and tourism facilities. 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.
The open plains of the eastern Serengeti rise to the crater highlands of the volcanic massifs of Loolmalasin (3,587 m) and Oldeani (3,168 m) dating from the late Mesozoic and early Tertiary.
Ngorongoro Crater is one of the largest inactive unbroken calderas in the world which is unflooded. It has a mean diameter of 16-19 km, a crater floor of 26,400 ha, and a rim soaring to 400-610 m 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 palaeontological studies.
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 xanthonhloea and Rauvolfia caffra .
A population of about 25,000 large animals lives in the crater, mainly ungulates, along with the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa. They include the critically endangered black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis , which have declined from about 108 in 1964-66 to between 11-14 in 1995, and hippopotamus, which are very uncommon in the area. There are also many other ungulates: wildebeest (7,000 estimated in 1994), Burchell's zebra (4,000), eland, Grant's and Thomson's gazelles (3,000). The crater has the densest known population of lion, which are classed as vulnerable, numbering only 62 in 2001. On the crater rim are leopard and the endangered African elephant, numbering 42 in 1987 but only 29 in 1992, mountain reedbuck and buffalo (4,000 in 1994). However, since the 1980s the crater's wildebeest population has fallen by a quarter to about 19,000 and the numbers of eland and Thomson's gazelle have also declined whereas buffalos increased greatly, probably due to the prevention of fire which favours high fibrous grasses over shorter, less fibrous types.
In summer enormous numbers of Serengeti migrants pass through the plains of the reserve, including 1.7 million wildebeest, 260,000 zebra and 470,000 gazelle. Waterbuck mainly occur mainly near Lerai Forest; serval widely in the crater and on the plains to the west. Common in the reserve are lion, hartebeest, spotted hyena and jackal. Cheetah, classed as vulnerable although common in the reserve, are scarce in the crater itself. The endangered wild dog Lycaon pictus has recently disappeared from the crater and may have declined elsewhere in the Conservation Area as well. The golden cat has recently been seen in the Ngorongoro forest.
Ngorongoro has palaeontological 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 this one of the major areas in the world for research on the human evolution. Olduvai Gorge has produced valuable remains of early hominids including Australopithecus and Homo habilis as well as fossil bones of many extinct animals. Nearby, at Laetoli, are fossil hominid footprints from the Pliocene age.
Actually there is considerable controversy about the exact number of people in the NCA partly because pastoral people, being mobile, are difficult to enumerate, but some Maasai live there. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Details on history are only provided in the nomination dossier for the archaeological sites - no material is provided for the Maasai pastoral landscape or on the history of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. As the history of the association between the Maasai and the Conservation Area has relevance for an understanding of the present arrangements, ICOMOS has included brief information on the history of the Maasai in this area and of the designation of the area.
The remains of hominin fossils in the Olduvai Gorge were first noted in 1911 by Prof. Kattwinkel, a German entomologist, while making observations on butterflies. Under his recommendations, a scientific expedition was led by Prof. Hans Reck, who in 1913-4 recovered fossil specimens that included extinct forms of large mammals. In 1931, Louis Leakey, a British scholar, began work at Olduvai. His work led to the discoveries of the oldest stone tools (Oldowan Industrial techno-complex) that made Olduvai Gorge a type site. In 1959, Mary Leakey made the discovery of the then oldest hominin in eastern Africa (Zinjanthropus boisei) nick-named, "nut cracker man" - the first species of early hominin (now subsumed under the genus Paranthropus) to be found outside of South Africa.
The discovery of the Zinjanthropus boisei skull (now subsumed under the genus Paranthropus) was seen as a major milestone in the history of paleoanthropology, and reinforced the idea, put forward by Leakey and originally proffered by Charles Darwin in 1871, that Africa could be seen as the ‘cradle of humanity' in demonstrating how humans were descended from an ape ancestry.
The finds sparked a surge of paleoanthropological interest in East Africa.
In 1960, further research works in the same horizons yielded the first Homo habilis. This species became the Type Specimen (holotype) of the genus Homo. Morphologically and morphometrically, this large-brained hominin was the first species described as a direct ancestor of later hominins including modern humans (Homo sapiens).
Subsequent research in the late 1980s involved teams of Tanzanian and American scientists under the Institute of Hominid Origins led by Donald Johanson. From 1990 to date, a paleoanthropological research project is ongoing at Olduvai Gorge (Olduvai Landscape Paleoanthropology Project- OLAP) co-led by the University of Rutgers (USA) and the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).
Some of the excavated material is stored at Olduvai, and a considerable amount is housed at the National Museum of Kenya.
Laetoli was first studied by the German entomologist, Kohl Larsen in the 1920s and yielded few fossils. In 1974 a team led by Dr. Mary Leakey made the discoveries of the hominin footprints trails and excavations were carried out in 1978 -1979. Also in 1974 the hominin remains were found which are seen to be associated with the footprints.
Research work at Lake Ndutu, which yielded remains of the Ndutu human skull were carried out in 1973 - although the archaeologists are not identified they are known to be A. A. Mturi.
Nasera Rock shelter was studied by Michael Mehlman - no date is given.
Ngorongoro Crater floor was first recognized to have burial mounds by a cattle rancher, Siedentopf, and his assistant, Rothe. The resources were later examined by Prof. Hans Reck in 1913 and by Dr. Arning in 1915.
Maasai Pastoral Landscape
None of the following information is included in the dossier. The Maasai migrated south from Northern Africa, probably in the region of the Nile Valley in Sudan, northwest of Lake Turkana, sometime between the 14th and 16th centuries, before establishing themselves in the Eastern region of Africa in the mid 17th century. They quickly spread south through the Rift Valley, whose fertile grasslands were ideal for their cattle, and around the 17th or 18th centuries reached their present-day territories in Kenya and Tanzania, where they were feared and renowned as warriors.
From 1830 onward, Maasai unity disintegrated into a succession of wars between the various clans, largely over cattle and grazing grounds, which led to territorial losses and gains by their neighbours. By the end of the 19th century, their neighbours and British colonists had displaced the Maasai from the rich lands of the central Rift Valley - the area between Lake Victoria and Mount Kenya. The infamous 1904 Maasai Agreement drawn up by the colonial power had effectively reduced their territory by two thirds. A further wave of forcible 'relocation' took place in 1911-13, confining the Maasai to distant reserves in southern Kenya and Tanzania.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area was created in 1959 as a separate part of the Serengeti National Park. The Maasai were allowed to live in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area but were excluded from the National Park. The Maasai elders who agreed to this deal subsequently said they did not know what they were signing. Previously a combination of wildlife experts and palaeontologists, including Louis Leakey and Bernard Grzimek (author of Serengeti Shall Not Die), had campaigned to remove the Maasai from the whole of the Serengeti/Ngorongoro area and make the whole area a national wildlife park.
Post independence, tourism was developed around big game watching from game lodges in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro. In the 1990s, when such tourism begun to yield high revenues, there was pressure to increase the game reserves and Ikorongo and Grameti Games Reserves were added to Serengeti's western border and the local people once again removed. Since then there have been moves to create Wildlife Conservation Areas to the north of the Serengeti: the Maasai complained in a case that went to the Tanzanian Human Rights commission.
Within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Maasai have increased in numbers from around 10,000 in 1960s to just over 60,000 today. There were moves from 1975 to ban agriculture in the area and in 1992 the Government indicated that Ngorongoro should be for wildlife and the Maasai be encouraged to move. In 2003, 200 families were evicted as illegal immigrants. The Maasai are currently only in part of the nominated area (in spite of the fact that the 1959 agreement allowed them to live in the whole). Source: Advisory Body Evaluation