National parks battle thefts of plants, rocks, animals and artifacts
March 28, 2018
National parks like Saguaro National Park are coming up with solutions on how to bring down the theft problem of visitors stealing plants, animals, rocks and artifacts that are meant to remain as part of the park.
Near Tucson rests Saguaro National Park which contains over a million of the giant cactus beasts. Rangers and visitors can see the hole of where a saguaro once stood tall and strong before someone uprooted it.
“It’s absolute criminal activity,” Kevin Dahl, southwest senior program manager for National Parks Conservation Association, says. “It’s for profit. A mature saguaro adds something to the value of a home or business that’s for sale or rent.”
Dahl says saguaros are often sold for about $100 or more per foot. As the largest cactus species in the country, they can grow more than 40 feet and live up to 200 years. They can only be found growing in the Sonoran Desert.
In order to prevent people from stealing the cactus, nearly a thousand of the most accessible saguaros have been tagged with microchips. They don’t give off the location of the cactus, but if scanned it will say that it belongs to the national park.
“Our biggest hope is that it’s a deterrent,” Chief Ranger at Saguaro National Park Ray O’Neil says. “People recognize that if they steal cacti from Saguaro National Park there’s a chance we’re going to be able to identify that the cactus came from our park.”
It’s not a problem that happens everyday, but it’s still an ongoing problem, O’Neil says. Parks aren’t being stripped clean, but it’s enough that the parks are still being damaged. Photography is one way of seeing that the major sight-seeing attractions of the parks are still going untouched.