The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is a conservation area and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The Area is situated 180 km (112 miles) west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania.
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 Ngorongoro District. The Ngorongoro Crater, a large volcanic caldera, lies within the area.
The Ngorongoro area originally was part of the Serengeti National Park when it was created by the British in 1951. Maasai continued to live in the newly created park until 1959, when repeated conflicts with park authorities over land use led the British to evict them to the newly declared Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Land in the conservation area is multi-use: it is unique in Tanzania as the only conservation area providing protection status for wildlife whilst allowing human habitation. Land use is controlled to prevent negative effects on the wildlife population. For example, cultivation is prohibited at all but subsistence levels.
The area is part of the Serengeti ecosystem, and to the north-west, it adjoins the Serengeti National Park and is contiguous with the southern Serengeti plains, these plains also extend to the north into unprotected Loliondo division and are kept open to wildlife through trans-human pastoralism practiced by Maasai. The south and west of the area are volcanic highlands, including the famous Ngorongoro Crater and the lesser known Empakai. The southern and eastern boundaries are approximately defined by the rim of the Great Rift Valley wall, which also prevents animal migration in these directions.
The annual ungulate migration passes through the NCA, with wildebeest and zebra moving south into the area in December and moving north in June. This movement changes seasonally with the rains, but the migration will traverse almost the entire plains in search of food. The NCA has a healthy resident population of most species of wildlife, in particular the Ndutu Lake area to the west has strong cheetah and lion populations.
A population of approximately 25,000 large animals, largely ungulates along with reputedly the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa, lives in the crater. Large animals in the crater include the black rhinoceros and the hippopotamus, which is very uncommon in the area. There are also wildebeest, zebra, eland and gazelles.
The crater has the densest known population of lions. On the crater rim are leopards, elephants, mountain reedbuck and buffalo.
In summer, enormous numbers of Serengeti migrants pass through the plains of the reserve, including wildebeest, zebra and gazelles. Waterbuck occur mainly near Lerai Forest; servals occur widely in the crater and on the plains to the west. Common in the reserve are lions, hartebeest, spotted hyenas and jackals. Cheetahs, although common in the reserve, are scarce in the crater itself. The African Wild Dog has recently disappeared from the crater and may have declined elsewhere in the Conservation Area as well, as well as throughout Tanzania.
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