There’s a reason why national parks are so treasured and protected. With so much urban development occurring and expanding wherever land is available, it’s important to preserve these areas that are part of our nation’s history in addition to being home to fragile ecosystems and rare botanical specimens.
As a result, it’s illegal to steal from or vandalize any national park, but visitors to the Saguaro National Park in Arizona don’t seem to care much for adhering to the law. The Saguaros cactus, what the park is named after and famous for, has the ability to grow over 40 feet tall and live for more than 200 years. Recently, it’s been the main source of vandalism at the park as they can be sold for as much as $100 per foot.
Kevin Dahl, a program manager for the National Park Conservation Association in Arizona said, “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.”
In an attempt to combat the issue, many cacti are now being microchipped. It’s important to note however that these chips are able to identify a stolen plant but not track it.
“It’s not a problem that’s happening every day, but it’s an ongoing problem,” Ray O’Neil, chief ranger at the park, said. “Our biggest hope is that it’s a deterrent; that people recognize that if they steal cacti from Saguaro National Park, that there’s a chance that we’re going to be able to identify that the cactus came from the park.”