Ngorongoro Conservation Area


The Ngorongoro landscape is unique, renowned for its spectacular natural beauty in a landscape with vast grass-plains, volcanic highlands, dense mountain forests, archaeological and cultural values, including the evolution of man and a present-day traditional pastoralist system, impressive wildlife populations, including the great migration. Perhaps the biggest symbol for this landscape is the Ngorongoro lion.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, NCA. Notice that NCA is situated adjacent to the Serengeti National Park, which in the north borders Kenyan Masai Mara National Reserve (drag the map to see).

Quick facts

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, NCA, is the focus of this initiative. It was gazetted in 1959 as a multiple-use landscape, where traditional pastoralist populations share the land with relatively abundant wildlife. In 1979 it got inscribed in the UNESCO world heritage list based on its outstanding natural and cultural values. The area’s rapid human-population growth and expansion has intensified human-wildlife conflicts, which particularly affect lions. Currently, lions are very few and have disappeared from much of Ngorongoro’s community areas.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is one of the world’s first so-called ”multi-use areas”. This makes it possible for people to live in a traditional way in areas with environmental protection status. The exception to the multi-use principle is the Ngorongoro crater, which is completely protected.

NCA Area: approx 8.300 km² / 3.200 sq mi
Ngorongoro Crater Area: approx 260 km² / 100 sq mi

Read more about the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

KopeLion study areas

1. Ngorongoro Crater

2. Ndutu area

3. Multi-use areas

CAPTION: It is currently beyond our capacity to cover the entire Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). Our focus is at the Ngorongoro Crater, the Ndutu Area, the central part of NCA between the Crater and Ndutu – an important connectivity area for lions dispersing between Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater – and Oldonyo Gol in the far northwest corner of NCA. 

Read more about the areas below.

KopeLion study area Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Zebras in Ngorongoro Conservation Area

1. Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater covers merely 3% of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, yet is at the centre of location and attention for any visitor. It is a world famous spectacle. Its massive, unbroken caldera teems with wildlife, including some of the world’s highest densities of large carnivores. Except for a steep hike, there is nothing stopping animals from moving in and out of the Crater. It is not permitted to settle in the Crater, but Maasai can bring their livestock down in some sections of the Crater for salt licks and watering.

CAPTION: The Ngorongoro Crater, often called ”Africas Eden”, is the largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera in the world: 19 km long by 16 km wide by 600 m deep. It is the home to the highest density of big game in Africa, including all the big five and plenty of predators. The crater is thought to have formed about 2.5 million years ago from a large active volcano whose cone collapsed inward after a major eruption.

2. Ndutu area

Ndutu lies at the border of Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park. With its two soda-rich lakes, the upper section of the Olduvai Gorge, and the surrounding woodlands, Ndutu is an oasis in the midst of endless grass plains for visiting and resident wildlife. The place is a wildlife photographer’s dream, not the least because of its numerous carnivores. This is the second area in Ngorongoro where lions are easily observed and still remain in high numbers, and the most likely source of lions to venture across the community land to reach the Ngorongoro Crater and beyond. In the dry season this place also becomes the oasis for surrounding pastoralists and their herds. The upper Olduvai provides the only permanent source of water, attracting an increasing number of herdsmen with massive herds of livestock. In the resulting struggle for resources, conflicts between predators, livestock and warrior herdsmen becomes a daily occurrence. Then as the rains start again, herders and livestock move on, replaced by the great wildebeest migration and the time of feast for all.

Big Marsh pride, Ndutu

In Ndutu lions are easily observed and still remain in high numbers. In the dry season struggle for resources – conflicts between predators, livestock and warrior herdsmen – becomes a daily occurrence. Our Ilchokutis are here to mitigate conflicts.

The multi-use landscape in the central section of Ngorongoro Conservation Area is an important area for our activities. This is the most plausible connectivity area for lions dispersing between Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater.

Oldonyo Gol is our most distant and different area of operation. It is the northwest corner of Ngorongoro Conservation Area that borders the Serengeti National Park and the Loliondo Game Controlled Area. It is a vast area including the chain of hills that breaks up the “endless” short-grass plains of Serengeti. Lions have disappeared from this area corner of Ngorongoro, but they occasionally visit during the rainy season when these plains are filled with gnus. In Oldonyo Gol traditions hold strong, and young warriors are still eager to go on ritual hunts. If a hunting team fails to find visiting lions on the Ngorongoro plains, they may strike lion-luck in the nearby Serengeti.

3. Ngorongoro’s multi-use area

The central section of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, connecting the Ngorongoro Crater and Ndutu, and including the Lake Eyasi escarpment in the east, is since 2011 an important area for our activities. It is currently beyond our capacity to cover the entire Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We selected this section because 1) it is the most plausible connectivity area for lions dispersing between Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, and 2) lions are still found here, albeit in low numbers, occupying areas in the rugged terrain along the escarpment or up in the Ngorongoro highlands. Much of this area is covered by spread-out settlements and active livestock grazing areas. Though thousands of people live here, it is still a semi-wild landscape with no obstructions blocking lions or other wildlife, and where lions can exist. This section includes wide woodland valleys with abundant zebra and giraffe, where lions up until recently were commonly seen. Men who were herd boys 10-20 years ago tell how they frequently bumped into lions when out herding their goats. Today few herd boys here have ever seen a lion footprint.

Oldony Gol, Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Oldonyo Gol is in the far northwest corner of Ngorongoro Conservation Area that borders the Serengeti National Park. Here we are discussing resource distribution between bomas.