Visiting America’s national parks will forever change you. The remarkable beauty that these vast areas have to offer is almost impossible to truly describe — which is why people are often tempted to take a piece of the park home with them in the form of a plant, rock, or something more precious. But it should go without saying you should never, ever vandalize or steal from a national park.
Some people, it seems, didn't get that memo. And it’s become such an issue that rangers at Saguaro National Park in Arizona have been forced to put microchips in some of the park’s famed Saguaros, a variety of cactus that is capable of growing more than 40 feet tall and can live upwards of 200 years.
“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. Dahl added that stealing the plants has become a lucrative business as a Saguaro can be sold for as much as $100 per foot.
According to officials, a number of the cactus plants have been microchipped. However, they note that while the chips can identify a stolen plant, they cannot track them. But they are hopeful this new technique will deter thieves in the future.
And though officials don’t have an exact count on how many of the plants have been stolen, they know the impact has been significant.
“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.”