On 13 September, an award ceremony took place at the headquarters of Peru's oldest and most respected newspaper, El Comercio. It was the culmination of a national contest, the first Barbara D'Achille Prize for Nature and Conservation Journalism, organized by San Diego Zoo Global-Peru, the National Service of Natural Protected Areas (Sernanp), and El Comercio.
The contest attracted the attention of young science communication students from across the country, all rising to the challenge of writing a compelling essay or journalistic report on any aspect of Peru's biodiversity.
Following the example of Barbara D'Achille, 68% of contest participants were women. Neither a biologist nor journalist by training, D'Achille nonetheless became a highly regarded, outspoken El Comercio reporter, specializing in environmental and conservation issues and sending articles from all corners of Peru for her weekly column. In 1989, while researching a story, she was ambushed, taken hostage, and murdered by a Shining Path terrorist cell after she refused to interview the group's leader.
The winning essays, by Erlinda Astopillo from Huancayo, Milagros Iparraguirre from Lima, and Carmen Vásquez from Trujillo, highlighted not only the importance of conserving the great variety of ecosystems and species that exist in Peru, but also the commitment and effort of anonymous Peruvians who, day by day, work to protect the country's natural heritage.
Silvia Miro Quesada, senior editor at El Comercio, thanked San Diego Zoo Global-Peru and Sernanp for this initiative and highlighted the legacy of Bárbara D´Achille in environmental journalism as inspiration for new generations of journalists. In turn, Juan José Garrido Koechlin, director of El Comercio, emphasized the importance of encouraging the interest of new generations of journalists in conservation and nature. "That is why we support and will continue to support these types of initiatives," he said.
Rodolfo Valcárcel, general manager of Sernanp, announced that in 2020, the contest will be expanded so that professional journalists can also contribute their work. The ceremony was concluded by Cesar Flores, director of San Diego Zoo Global-Peru, who said this award was created to honor the memory of Barbara D'Achille, a pioneer in connecting Peruvians with the remarkable biodiversity of Manu National Park, and a regular visitor to Cocha Cashu Biological Station, currently celebrating the 50th anniversary since its foundation.
The three winning articles have been published in the print and digital editions of the newspaper, and the first and second placed winners will travel to Cocha Cashu, all expenses paid, accompanied by an El Comercio team. We wish them a fantastic experience and can't wait to read their stories!