The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is a protected area and a World Heritage Site located 180 km (110 mi) west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. The area is named after Ngorongoro Crater, a large volcanic caldera within the area. 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. The 2009 Ngorogoro Wildlife Conservation Act placed new restrictions on human settlement and subsistence farming in the Crater, displacing Maasai pastoralists, most of whom had been relocated to Ngorongoro from their ancestral lands to the north when the British colonial government established Serengeti National Park in 1959. The construction of luxury tourist hotels in the Conservation Area allows people to access “the unparalleled beauty of one of the world’s most unchanged wildlife sanctuaries”, according to a government brochure, even as thousands of Maasai have suffered forcible eviction and have been denied access to water sources for their livestock.
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 blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) (7,000 estimated in 1994), Grant’s zebra (Equus quagga boehmi) (4,000), the common eland (Taurotragus oryx), and Grant’s (Nanger granti) and Thomson’s gazelles (Eudorcas thomsonii) (3,000). Waterbucks (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. Tanzanian cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus raineyi), East African wild dog (Lycaon pictus lupinus), and African leopard (Panthera pardus 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