Saguaro National Park utilizing microchip program to prevent cactus theft

Saguaro National Park utilizing microchip program to prevent cactus theft
Saguaro National Park utilizing microchip program to avoid cactus theft. (Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Saguaro National Park has been doing all they can to prevent theft at their park so visitors can continue to appreciate the beauty.

Karen Peterson, who was visiting Saguaro National Park East on Monday spoke to Tucson News Now on her thoughts.

"It's very pretty. It has a different beauty," said Karen Peterson, who was visiting Saguaro National Park East on Monday, April 9. She and her husband spent the week in southern Arizona. It's the unique beauty of the landscape that drew them in.

Peterson explained, "This is what brings people most people here. I know it's one of the things we came to look for and see."

After her visit, she said she couldn't imagine the park without the beloved spiny cactus that gives it its name.

Neither can those in charge of protecting them.

Ray O'Neil, Chief Ranger of Saguaro National Park told Tucson News Now, "It's the things that live here. The cactus, the animals, they're the reason for our park being here."

O'Neil said for years there was belief that people were cactus poaching. The problem was never huge, but enough to look into.

It's why for the last five years the park has microchipped hundreds of their cacti, to cut down the number of stolen saguaros. They're a valuable part of our desert landscape.

"We're losing Saguaro cactus. We're losing the namesake of the park. We're losing the reason the park was established," O'Neil said.

Park officials told us a saguaro's value is about $100 a foot. The taller the cactus, the more money it's worth.

The process to protect these desert icons, is to the point, as easy as microchipping your pet. In fact, it's basically the same.

The chip is inserted into the cactus, and when scanned, the chip reader can lead park rangers to the exact coordinates the cactus was taken from. The program works to bring a sharp decline to criminal activity.

O'Neil said, "We want people to think about that if they're thinking of taking cactus from the park."

Saguaro National Park also has rangers on patrol throughout to keep watch over potential poachers.

The microchips are readable for years after they're inserted.

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