A Capuchin priest now serving in Jakarta has received a special government award for his environmental and wildlife conservation work during 15 years of service in Pontianak, capital of West Kalimantan province. Father Samuel Oton Sidin, an ethnic Dayak, was among 12 recipients of the prestigious Kalpataru Award which was presented by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Presidential Palace yesterday. The award is given annually to coincide with World Environment Day, which falls on June 5. “I wanted to encourage local people to love the environment and the best way to do so was to lead by example. I tried hard,” he said after the award ceremony. Fr Sidin won recognition for his work in reforestation and conservation work while serving as superior of the Capuchin Province of Our Lady Queen of Angels, in West Kalimantan’s Kubu Raya district. With villagers’ help, he planted various trees such as eaglewood, mango and durian in a protected area which he called Rumah Pelangi (Home of the Rainbow). “The earth is our only home. So whoever he or she is, whether he or she believes in God or not, they have a responsibility to conserve nature,” he asserted, adding he had also bred porcupines in the protected area. The conservation area is now being managed by the Capuchins since Fr Sidin was assigned to St Francis of Assisi Parish in South Jakarta, in April. Environmental activists have welcomed Fr Sidin’s award. His leading by example created awareness and inspired others into environmental preservation efforts, according to Hendrikus Adam, from the West Kalimantan chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment. “What Fr Sidin has done is really good and pure. He has made significant contributions to environmental preservation and the next generation’s future,” he added.