Visiting America’s national parks can be a breath-taking experience. The vast natural beauty and incredible fauna and flora can be awe-inspiring. However, unfortunately, there are those who take advantage of the parks and have been stealing plants from the land.
Saguaro National Park in Arizona, famed for its large selection of cacti, has had to install microchips into the plants in a bid to deter thieves. The park is so-called for its famed Saguaros, a variety of cactus that lives up to 200 years and can grow more than 40 feet tall.
The ongoing problem has cost the park thousands of dollars with officials saying that they have had to invest $3000 to microchip 1000 cacti. These chips can be used to identify stolen cacti but sadly can’t be tracked as they don’t emit a signal. Instead, the only way to tell if a cactus was stolen is to scan it.
However, officials say that they still hope that potential thieves who know that the saguaros are chipped will be enough to sway them to stop their poaching ways.
“It’s ironic that we set aside great places like Saguaro National Park and people think that they can just come take the iconic cactus for which the park is named,” Kevin Dahl, a program manager for the National Park Conservation Association in Arizona, told KTAR News.
While officials are unclear how many cacti have been stolen to date, the number and impact on the park are significant. For thieves, stealing cacti is a lucrative business and a Saguaro can be sold for as much as $100 per foot.
Saguaro National Park is a 92,000-acre park that consists of two separate areas in the Sonoran Desert — the Tucson Mountain District and the Rincon Mountain District. The saguaro is native to the desert and that does not grow naturally elsewhere.