Tracking Saguaro Cacti

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Saguaro Cacti, you know the classic western cactus that grows up to 50 feet tall and sprouts the arms that you see in classic western movies and roadrunner cartoons are in danger of theft. Saguaro’s are native only to the Sonoran Desert, which limits their native land to Arizona, California, Baja Mexico and Sonora. They take fifty years before they first flower and seventy years before growing their first limb.

Everyone wants a nice 6-7′ Saguaro in their front yard and people don’t want to pay full retail prices, so there is huge black market for thieves who go into the Sonoran Desert and steal Saguaro’s and sell then to nurseries or directly to consumers. A typical 4 – 7′ Saguaro can fetch $1,000 or more on the market which is quite substantial for a plant.

In an effort to reduce Saguaro theft the National Parks are implementing a microchip tracking device that is similar to the ID chips put in pet dogs and cats. This chip will be implanted about 1 inch deep in the cactus and can be read with a scanner from about a foot away. This allows officials to walk into nursery’s and scan over Saguaro’s to see if any are stolen property, and when policy or park officials stop trucks with Saguaro’s in the bed, they can quickly run the scanner’s to determine if the Saguaro’s are stolen.

I had no idea there was such a demand and market for these cacti, I mean sure they are everywhere, and sure they are really nice and scenic to look at. Microchip implants for cacti aren’t new in Arizona, there was a similar program implemented in The Lake Mead National Recreation Area which performed the same tracking for Barrel cacti to reduce poaching there as well.

Thought this was an interesting tidbit of information to share with my readers.

-Justin Germino

Updated: October 9, 2008 — 7:49 pm