Issue 2
Monday, 01 April 2019
Charles Darwin University
Baka hunters are enthralled by Rohan Fisher’s 3D imaging. Photo: Rohan Fisher
Baka hunters are enthralled by Rohan Fisher’s 3D imaging. Photo: Rohan Fisher

Habitat conservation goes high tech in Cameroon

By Andrew Hall

RIEL researcher Rohan Fisher has added the Central African country of Cameroon to the list of places he has applied his ground-breaking 3D printed projection augmented landscape technology - through funding from the Centre for International Forestry Research, based in Bogor, Indonesia.

Mr Fisher was invited by renowned conservation biologist Professor John Fa to assist a project being undertaken by the University of Manchester (UM) in collaboration with the Spanish NGO Zerca y Lejos, which is working with the hunter-gatherer Baka (Pygmy) people – who inhabit Cameroon’s south-eastern rainforests – to improve their access to health and education and support the environmental integrity of their traditional lands. 

An important component of this work is supporting their traditional hunting rights which underpin the Bakka culture and wellbeing.

“The Baka traditionally hunt a very large rodent and a very small antelope as dietary staples and the project has been using GPS technology to record their hunting tracks,” Mr Fisher said.

“There are, however, other animal species in the region such as elephant, lowland gorillas and other mammals that are under threat from commercial hunting activity.”

The Zerca y Lejos / UM project has been working to map Baka land use patterns to better understand the ecological balance of the region. 

Mr Fisher said his contribution to the project was to introduce his 3D geospatial imaging technology, which has previously been deployed in Northern Australia, Indonesia and Mexico, as an additional referential tool in a bid to understand the impacts of human interaction with the environment. 

“The imaging system I have developed can be easily understood at every level in a policy-making hierarchy. From locals on the ground like the Baka to the upper echelons of bureaucratic and government officialdom," he said.

In Cameroon Mr Fisher developed animations that showed how rainforest resources were affected by varying levels of subsistence and commercial enterprise.

“I also created digital overlays that highlighted the threats to the rainforest of mining concessions, for instance, or the effect on animal populations if a nature reserve was declared for a particular area,” he said.

“The Baka people were especially excited with the 3D landscape when I created moving animations of their hunting activities, GPS tracks they had collected. . . which showed that their traditional practices sustained a healthy human/wild meat balance.”

The 3D print and projection set-up has been left with the project team in Southern Cameroon for ongoing use supporting engagement with the Baka community.