3D Models, A Community Resource for Biocultural Conservation

Communities from Ulu Papar created a 3D model of Ulu Papar, using the Participatory 3-Dimensional Modelling (P3DM) method, a process triggered by the successful creation of a model of Buayan-Kionop in 2008. During the Buayan-Kionop experience, participatory mapping was first applied in 2005 to consolidate efforts to document land and resource use patterns. However, inaccuracies in sketch-maps and difficulties for communities to understand 2-dimensional GIS maps prompted the introduction of the P3DM method, which integrates traditional spatial knowledge and GIS mapping to produce a stand-alone relief model. This 3D replica of ancestral lands was exactly what was needed to encourage meaningful participation from community members in the form of sharing knowledge on resource areas and cultural landscapes, particularly among the elderly.


The new 3D model of Ulu Papar is an expanded version of the Buayan-Kionop 3D model, representing an area of 19,200 hectares both inside and immediately adjacent to the Crocker Range Park and featuring important characteristics of the region including rivers and tributaries, villages and customary boundaries, homesteads and agricultural fields, hunting and resource harvesting grounds, and sites of historical and cultural significance. Community researchers from Ulu Papar first constructed the Ulu Papar model in late 2010 through a collaborative process with the Global Diversity Foundation and Sabah Parks. It now sits in the village of Kalanggaan, chosen due to its central location in the upper Ulu Papar valley, while the sister Buayan-Kionop 3D model remains in the village of Buayan in the lower part of the Ulu Papar valley.


Both 3D models serve as a resource that supports the participation of Ulu Papar communities in collaboratively managing the environment they live in, providing evidence of their role as custodians of the area and giving them the rightful recognition of their traditional knowledge of the area. This has given them the confidence to exert authority over their environment, seen in their quest to contribute to the planning process for the nomination of Crocker Range as a Biosphere Reserve. While obtaining a Biosphere Reserve status would be a significant achievement for the State of Sabah, the zoning of the reserve would affect the lifestyles, culture and traditions of the communities of Ulu Papar. A nomination which supports the full and effective participation of the communities of Ulu Papar and respects the biocultural heritage of Ulu Papar would, therefore, be the ideal solution.