Conservation & Tourism of Early Hominid World Heritage in Africa

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, United Republic of Tanzania

Africa has played a crucial rule in the historical evolution of human-kind. Years of research and archaeological & ethnographic evidence has proved that Africa is one of the most essential regions to study evolution (Coppens, 15). The evidence of early human existence includes fossils, tools, foot prints, rock paintings and engravings. This offers evidence of momentous events of environmental changes through thousands of years. Since todays and future generations of human are greatly indebted to our early hominid predecessors, it becomes absolutely imperative that greater efforts be made to preserve early heritage sites (Mussi, 35).

There is a definite need for inscription of more early hominid sites on the World Heritage List (Coppens, 15). Even what has been inscribed is under several threats that includes: urbanization, armed conflict/ civil unrest, natural disasters, environmental deterioration, looting/ poaching and uncontrolled tourism (UNESCO). The treasures of world heritage sites have become much more accessible to people as compared to 40 or more years ago, the accessibility can prove to be detrimental to these early Hominid sites. These sensitive sites when opened to public can result in non-reversible damage to the archaeological remains from pedestrian circulation, vehicles, tourist development, illegal excavation and pillaging of the site.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the United Republic of Tanzania, is a perfect example to study, because this site has made great efforts to establish a perfect equilibrium between tourism and conservation. This site has wildlife, nature preserves, semi-nomadic Masai tribes, and extensive archaeological remains of human evolution. There evidences of fossilized footprints, remains of Homo habilis, Homo erectus & Homo sapiens, and stone & iron tools. Since the inscription into the natural criteria in 1979, and later as cultural site in 2010, Ngorongoro Conservation Area has strived to do justice to the archaeological and anthropological possibilities (UNESCO).

The site’s management plan primarily focuses on conservation of the natural, archaeological and cultural resources. The management strategizes to present the site in a qualitative manner to its tourists and researchers. The site uses a system based on a strictly regulated access of the site, partly closing access to areas being conserved vs. areas allowed for tourists. The tourists traffic is controlled through groups that are led by official guides. The guided tours walk over wooden ramps, so the ground is protected from excessive foot traffic and erosion. The historical evidences of fossils and tools is easily visible and accessible to the tourists, and the same time protected with barriers made of wood and covered with thatching as roofs that provide shade, and protect the fossils from environmental effects (Clarke, 61). The careful use of vernacular/ local materials is aimed to blend in with the natural environment while providing the necessary protection. This management strategy assures for the public to have access to authentic and accurate educational material without causing any detrimental harm to the World heritage site.