NGORONGORO Crater is the world's largest unbroken caldera. Often referred to as "Africa's Garden of Eden," the crater is home to over 30,000 animals including elephants, lions, cheetahs, wildebeests, buffaloes, and the rare black rhinos.
Ngorongoro Crater was officially declared as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa on February 11 this year in Arusha. Votes were cast by experts from around the world, referring largest unbroken caldera statistic along with the unique encounter with wildlife as the primary factors drawing their votes.
Ngorongoro Crater joined the Serengeti Migration and Mount Kilimanjaro as wonders of nature that call both Africa and Tanzania home. Staff Writer DEOGRATIAS MUSHI recently interviewed the Acting NCAA Chief Conservator Mr BRUNO KAWASANGE on the challenges of running this precious Authority. Excerpts...
Question: What is Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) all about?
A: The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is an extensive highland area along the eastern arm of the Rift Valley, with the world-renowned Ngorongoro Crater as its focal point. It is not a national park in the strict sense of the word, but the NCA was established to conserve wildlife and other natural resources. It also safeguards the interests of indigenous people and promotes tourism.
Thus, guests on safari have the unique experience of seeing Maasai herdsmen whose cattle graze side by side with the tremendous variety of wildlife found in the area. Indeed, a very attractive site.
Q: What were the main purposes of establishing NCAA?
A: The NCAA was established to conserve and develop the natural resources of the Conservation Area, to promote tourism within the Conservation Area, to promote and regulate the development of forestry within the Conservation Area, among others.
NCAA is free to issue controls and restrictions on entry and residence in the National Conservation Area (NCA), controls on grazing and protection of natural resources in the NCA, destruction or removal of vegetation, use of water sources, gathering honey or forest produce, afforestation or reforestation, protection of slopes, drainage of lands, construction of buildings or works, construction of roads, and closure of any lands being "despoilt".
Q: Any problems facing NCAA currently?
A: Yes, Human population is increasing steadily within Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA). When the area was established in 1959, there were only 4,000 people. Currently there are over 64,000 people, and experts say that only 25,000 people should be allowed to live within the conserved area.
Q: Could you say this is a unique area on earth?
A: Of course, because the place is unmatched for its natural variety. There are few places on earth where such a tremendous diversity of landscapes exist inside a region this size. Apart from its wildlife riches, the NCAA is also of great archaeological importance, with the remains of some of mankind's earliest ancestors discovered in the area.
Q: Say something about NCAA Corporate Social responsibility
A: NCAA authority has introduced a special scheme that adds value to the Maasai traditional livestock. This include Artificial Insemination (AI) programme that has improved calves and milk quantity and quality. Traditionally prior to AI, an ordinary Maasai cow could produce two litres of milk per day but cows produced under AI plan produce up to twenty liters per day.
We are going on with this exercise, and generally, the Maasai people have accepted this move and would like their cows to be better, to provide them with more income. Some schools have also been established and improved within NCAA. The authority has also been providing food aid to the Maasai population, and just last year, over 2bn/- was spent for this particular purpose.
Q: In brief, could you say something about wildlife population?
A: This is the largest intact caldera in the world. Ngorongoro Crater shelters one of the most beautiful wildlife havens anywhere. A permanent population of more than 30 000 animals inhabit a mere 260 km² (100 square miles) in the 600 m (2 000 ft) deep crater, making this one of the few places in Africa where guests stand a great chance of seeing the entire Big Five in the course of a single game drive.
Q: What kind of efforts are you deploying to protect environment?
A: Protection of natural resources is one sector which can guarantee the youth ample employment opportunities. Wildlife and other forms of natural resources are the main source of the country's revenue, the base for the tourism industry as well as national's responsibility in protecting the world's natural heritage on behalf of the whole earth.
The special training of rangers as well as other tourism personnel from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority was being undertaken by Commander Venance Bruno Tossi who heads the special unit to stop indiscriminate killing of wildlife, illegal export of live animals and other vices targeting the country's natural resources.
Q: How busy is Ngorongoro during tourism season?
A: Ngorongoro Crater is busy, at times very busy, but given it is one of the worlds most amazing natural wonders, it is even going to be busy in future. It is at this place that tourists can interact with the Masaai and is one of the most beautiful natural wildlife safari sites in the world.
Q: What are the famous games in Ngorongoro?
A: The Ngorongoro is the best place in Tanzania to see the big five. A healthy population of black rhino and some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa today are the prize spots, but the Crater is home to strong populations of lion, leopard and hyena along with good herds of wildebeest, buffalo and zebra.
Other game in the Ngorongoro includes serval cat, cheetah, jackal, Grant's and Thompson's gazelle, flamingo and bat eared foxes along with approximately 400 species of bird. And sure enough the legendary Ngorongoro Crater was officially declared as one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of Africa," in February 2013 during the official ceremony which was held in Arusha, Tanzania.
Votes were cast by experts from around the world who, according to Dr Phillip Imler the Founder and President of Seven Natural Wonders, they all referenced the largest unbroken caldera statistic along with the unique encounter with wildlife within as the primary factors drawing their votes.
The Crater is mapped within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority which coincidentally is also the gateway to Serengeti, the National Park which was also listed among the Seven New Wonders of Nature and where the world's only wildebeest migration (entailing mass movements of 2.5 million large herbivores) takes place annually.
There is also a lake at the crater base and a pool filled with some of the largest hippos ever walked earth in addition to featuring nearly 500 species of birds, slithering reptiles and rare plants decorating its vegetation cover. And you won't be alone in the planned adventure to Ngorongoro because the crater happens to be Tanzania's most popular tourists' destination recording an annual average of 600,000 visitors and counting.
Whether you are a believer of the "Bing Bang" theory or the religious story of creation you will find something to cement your faith in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority where remains of the earliest human beings, including their immortalized footprints at Laetoli can be found.
And if the "Bing bang" did take place then it must have been blasted in Ngorongoro because expert geologists document that the crater resulted from a volcano that exploded creating the vast caldera which is now regarded as wilderness haven. Ngorongoro Crater is nearly 20 kilometres across its basin (diameter) with the natural bowl encompassing around 265 square kilometres filled with all types of flora and fauna, rivers, pools and the Crater Lake.
The Crater is also part of the world-famous "Serengeti Ecosystem" covering both Tanzania and Kenya and which has millions of wildlife moving between Maasai-Mara Game Reserve, Loliondo Game Controlled Area, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority.
When announcing the new "Seven Wonders" the President and founder of the Texas (US) based "New Seven Wonders," Dr Philip Imler revealed that though the seven wonders are not ranked in positions, Serengeti stood out due to its legendary, spellbinding largest migration of large mammals.
Ngorongoro Crater attracts over 600,000 tourists every year. Serengeti comes second with 360,000 annual visitors while Mount Kilimanjaro attracts nearly 60,000 tourists per annum. Overall Tanzania as a country attracts around 1.2 million tourists per year with more than 80 per cent of these ending up in the Northern Circuit where the three features are located.
Q: Any challenges facing NCAA ahead?
A: The Maasai of 1959 are not the Maasai of today. This people have not been left behind by the Science and Technology world. They need modern infrastructure that calls for improvement of their roads. More mobile phone companies should provide reliable communication to various areas where the Maasai live within the conservation area.
Some water sources within NCAA are drying, thus calling for the authority to look for other catchments that can provide water to these people. Maasai livestock are attached by some diseases.
It is the task of NCAA to make sure that veterinary officers are sought to make sure that they attend to the Maasai cows, goats, sheep and donkeys when they fell sick. I don't hesitate to say that the better Ngorongoro of tomorrow depends on the wisdom of different stakeholders, including politicians, local people and other wildlife and conservation experts.
Q: Any strong recommendation to conserve Ngorongoro?
A: There is a need to safeguard and implement laws and regulations established to make sure that Ngorongoro maintains its glory for years and years to come. All employed NCA workers should make sure that they play their key roles in making sure Ngorongoro is protected to make sure that it remains to be one of the world wonders. Politicians should also work hand in hand with conservation experts, just to make sure that NCAA maintains its glory for years to come.
Q: Can ordinary Tanzanians afford to visit Ngorongoro?
A: NCAA has been trying its best to lure Tanzanians from all walks of life to visit Ngorongoro Crater, but to our disappointment, not many of them have responded positively to our plea. One time we also introduced bus services from Arusha to Ngorongoro specifically for local tourists, but we had to cancel the service because the response was indeed poor.
We welcome Tanzanians to visit the Crater and the fee is affordable. People visiting as a group can hire our vehicles to the crater, and I assure you, the group fee is affordable. Let more Tanzanians come and visit this unique place on the planet.