It takes four babilla alligator hides to make a pair of boots, two to make a purse, according to journalist Juan Carlos Gutiérrez. In an article published in the Colombian newspaper Vanguardia Liberal, Gutiérrez writes that thousands of this threatened species
are illegally captured every month in Colombia. Their hides are then processed into consumer goods and shipped to markets in Japan
, Europe and the United States.
Gutiérrez spent several weeks tracking the illegal babilla trade
for the article. As a result of his labors, he is one of six journalists who received a Biodiversity Reporting Award – an honor bestowed on outstanding environmental news reporters in biodiversity-rich countries. In 2002, awards were presented to journalists from Brazil
, Colombia, Ghana, Bolivia, Guyana
The Biodiversity Reporting Awards are a collaborative effort of CI's International Communications Department, the International Center for Journalists and the International Federation of Environmental Journalists; the initiative is supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. The awards are designed to raise conservation awareness by increasing the quantity and improving the quality of environmental reporting. Since the program launched in 1999, the number of articles submitted has grown from 42 to 219, and the number of participating media outlets from 7 to 68. An equally impressive 115 journalists participated in this year's competition, up from 20 in 1999.
The awards have been instrumental in generating increased environmental reporting in Earth's biodiversity hotspots as well as coverage of CI activities. Many of this year's participants are repeat contestants who have become much more involved in environmental issues. For example, Peru's winner, Walter Wust, recently founded his own environmental news service, and Bolivia's winner, Juan Carlos Rivero Jordan, just co-founded Bolivia's Network of Environmental Journalists.