The entire protected area covers an area of 8300 km². According to smber, the Ngorongoro Crater of Tanzania is the largest non-flooded volcanic crater on earth and has a diameter of 22 km. It is 600 m deep and a unique natural area with an enormous number of mammals such as elephants, gazelles, antelopes, wildebeests, Cape buffalo, baboons and monkeys, lions, zebras and the extremely rare black rhinoceros. In 2010 the area’s cultural heritage was added to the world list. It includes 3.6 million old human footprints in Laetoli and the sites of prehistoric human bones in the Olduvai Gorge.
Ngorongoro Sanctuary: Facts
|Official title:||Ngorongoro Conservation Area|
|Natural monument:||8288 km² nature reserve in the “highlands of the giant craters” (1500 m to 3648 m); Ngorongoro crater with a diameter of 16 to 19 km one of the largest, non-“flooded” craters in the world; Crater floor 264 km²; Established as a protected area in 1959; In 2010 expansion to a cultural monument because of 3.6 million year old fossil human footprints in Laetoli, sites in the Olduvai Gorge (traces of Paranthropus boisei, Homo habilis and Homo erectus), references to the development of stone tools and the use of iron|
|Country:||Tanzania, Arusha Region|
|Location:||Northeast Tanzania, southeast of the Serengeti National Park|
|Appointment:||1979, expanded in 2010; 1984 to 1989 on the red list of the endangered world heritage because of heavy poaching and advancing agriculture|
|Meaning:||a special wealth of African wild animals, habitat of a small threatened population of black rhinos and an important place where Australopithecus boisei and Homo habilis, distant ancestors of humans, were found|
|Flora and fauna:||Acacia forests and grasslands with acacia species such as Acacia xanthophloea; up to 4000 Cape buffalo, a few elephants and anubis baboons; 7,000 white-bearded wildebeest, 4,000 plains zebras, 3,000 Thomson gazelles, lions, servals and jackals, plus a few black rhinos (11-15 in 1995) that are threatened with extinction; among the 400 bird species Lesser Flamingos, Ostriches and the giant bustard weighing up to 14 kg|
A huge crater full of animals
There is a special flair that surrounds the Ngorongoro Crater. On its floor you feel like you are in the Garden of Eden, the steep walls all around convey a feeling of security. Only a few Land Rovers, a few gravel driveways and lodges peeking over the rim of the crater are reminiscent of the influence of humans. Individual Maasai shepherds, who are allowed to lead their flocks to drink on the crater floor, simply belong to the ecosystem. It is not without good reason that the Ngorongoro Crater is viewed by many as the eighth wonder of the world.
A sedate equilibrium of all natural processes – this is the impression the Ngorongoro Crater can give. But at the same time it is a place of great biological dynamism. In some months dust dominates the scene, then it is bone dry. It is believed that the drought has now finally gained the upper hand and has thrown nature completely off balance. A few months later, on the other hand, lakes and swamps burst their banks. The crater is in danger of drowning. Such changes follow one another at unpredictable intervals. Years with little rainfall are followed by others in which heavy rains pelt down. In the same month, the crater always presents a completely different face from one year to the next. The time horizon of natural processes is ultimately not based on our rhythm of the Gregorian calendar. In the long wave, a natural equilibrium settles again and again around mean values of the population sizes and the species composition of the biological communities. In order to recognize this stability, one has to observe the developments in the crater over the years. Of course, such a stability presupposes that humans – who like to behave as the greatest troublemaker of nature – abstain from all apparently necessary regulatory interventions.
Settled animal species keep their population sizes constant in the Ngorongoro Crater, nomadic species can leave the crater entirely for a few months or years. They come back when the conditions are more favorable for them. Many white-bearded wildebeest, zebras and gazelles take part in the great migrations in the ecosystem of the neighboring Serengeti. Other individuals, families, or herds of migratory species stay in Ngorongoro year round. Buffalo or eland as aimlessly nomadic species can sometimes be found in the crater – sometimes not. Even hippos have made the descent into the crater; however, the walls may be too steep for giraffes, so they do not appear in the crater itself. Of the big cats one always meets lions, leopards keep shyly in secret, cheetahs are there, but rarely seen. The big attractions include twenty to thirty black rhinos, which are easier to protect from poachers here than in the savannahs. Representing nature threatened all over the world, the sight of the rhinos here makes you pensive; it reminds us urgently of the task of protecting our earth from the destructive influences of complex human activities. In terms of geology, the crater is a wonderful visual model. Strictly speaking, the huge bowl with a wall height of around 600 meters is a »caldera«, as one calls a crater, the tip of which has sunk. In the highlands of the crater, which is also part of the protected area, there are other small, partly incomplete calderas. Lava dust and ash are the basis for the area’s great fertility. This not only benefits the vegetation, but naturally also the herbivores that live on it and the carnivores that live on it. Another part of the reserve is the Olduvai Gorge. Significant fossils have been found here: Remains of early hominids such as Homo habilis or Australopithecus boisei once again indicate that the cradle of mankind was in Africa. Hardly anyone at the Ngorongoro Crater can escape this harmonious triad of fascinating insights into nature, the geological history of the earth’s origins and the history of the incarnation.