Is a conservation area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located 180 km (110 mi) west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. Ngorongoro Crater, a large volcanic caldera within the area, is recognized by one private organization as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. The conservation area is administered by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, an arm of the Tanzanian government, and its boundaries follow the boundary of the Ngorongoro Division of the Arusha Region. It has been reported in 2009 that the government authority has proposed a reduction of the population of the conservation area from 65,000 to 25,000. There are plans being considered for 14 more luxury tourist hotels, so people can access “the unparalleled beauty of one of the world’s most unchanged wildlife sanctuaries”, however, the people who own the land have had few benefits from tourism. None of the senior level positions in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are yet held by a member of the local Maasai pastoralists, who, in 2013, were aided by an international Avaaz campaign from being evicted from pastures bordering Serengeti National Park in order to facilitate the interests of a private luxury safari company. Based on fossil evidence found at the Olduvai Gorge, various hominid species have occupied the area for 3 million years. Massive fig trees in the northwest of the Lerai Forest are sacred to the Maasai and the Datooga. Some of them may have been planted on the grave of a Datago leader who died in battle with the Maasai around 1840
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area also protects Olduvai Gorge, situated in the plains area. It is considered to be the seat of humanity after the discovery of the earliest known specimens of the human genus, Homo habilis as well as early hominidae, such as Paranthropus boisei.
The Olduvai Gorge or Oldupai Gorge is a steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley, which stretches along eastern Africa. Olduvai is in the eastern Serengeti Plains in northern Tanzania and is about 50 kilometres (31 mi) long. It lies in the rain shadow of the Ngorongoro highlands and is the driest part of the region. The gorge is named after ‘Oldupaai’, the Maasai word for the wild sisal plant, Sansevieria ehrenbergii.
Approximately 25,000 large animals, mostly ungulates, live in the crater. Large animals in the crater include the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), the local population of which declined from about 108 in 1964-66 to between 11-14 in 1995, the African buffalo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), and the hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius).There also are many other ungulates: the wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) (7,000 estimated in 1994), Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli) (4,000), the common eland(Taurotragus oryx), and Grant’s (Nanger granti) and Thomson’s gazelles (Eudorcas thomsonii) (3,000). Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) occur mainly near Lerai Forest. There are no topis (Damaliscus lunatus), oribis (Ourebia oribi), or crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus). Impala (Aepyceros melampus) are absent because the open woodland they prefer does not exist. Giraffe also are absent, possibly because of a lack of browse species. Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), and leopard(Panthera pardus) are rarely seen.
Although thought of as “a natural enclosure” for a very wide variety of wildlife, 20 percent or more of the wildebeest and half the zebra populations vacate the crater in the wet season. Buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and eland do the opposite. Their highest numbers are during the rains.
Since 1986, the crater’s wildebeest population has fallen from 14,677 to 7,250 (2003-2005). The numbers of eland and Thomson’s gazelle also have declined while the buffalo population has increased greatly, probably due to the long prevention of fire which favors high-fibrous grasses over shorter, less fibrous types.
Servals (Leptailurus serval) occur widely in the crater.
Lake Magadi, a large lake in the southwest of the crater, is often inhabited by thousands of mainly Lesser Flamingoes.