Woman: There has always been a demand for crocodile skin and elephant tusks, but now cacti are in danger. Our guest is Ray O’Neil, chief park ranger from Saguaro National Park in Arizona. Ray, cactus theft seems to have become much more common recently. Why do you think this is so?
Man: Hmm… There have always been collectors ready to pay any price for a desirable cactus. And there have always been people eager to earn money by selling rare species. We also have visitors who just want to take a souvenir home. But a crucial factor is that cacti have recently become an important feature of hipster décor. Landscapers and architects are setting trends for using these plants in our homes and gardens. This is the primary reason why cacti have exploded in popularity and why they fetch such high prices on the black market. Needless to say, these trends are threatening to destroy some species forever.
Woman: Are there any factors that make it easier to steal cacti?
Man: Of course. First and foremost there are some legal questions about trade conducted on the Internet because certain issues are not precisely defined by law and people who steal cacti take advantage of that. Some of them believe they can escape the attention of US Fish and Wildlife Service officers. Luckily, we have a large team of specialists who deal with such cases and the vast majority of criminal activities are prevented. Yet, sadly, not every criminal gets caught. After all, catching thieves red-handed in remote deserts can be a real challenge.
Woman: I’ve interviewed the presidents of some regional cactus clubs, and they have all shared tales of crime. Do you have one you would like to share with us, Ray?
Man: Yes. In 2007, a landscaper, accompanied by a friend, dug up 17 saguaros, which are an iconic species. While the thieves were trying to load the cacti into a pickup truck, they were caught by a ranger who was on a walking patrol in our park. The landscaper had to serve eight months in federal prison. That was one of the harshest penalties ever for a cactus thief. His partner in crime was sentenced to six months of home confinement and 100 hours of community service.
Woman: Are there any ways to prevent cactus theft?
Man: One imaginative example of prevention is a project developed by Gene Joseph, who runs a specialist cactus farm. Gene believes that the best way to prevent illegal trade is to grow new cacti from seed on specialist farms such as his. He thinks that when rare plants are produced in this way, and then legally sold to the public, the pressure to steal from the wild decreases. However, it takes up to 20 years for a cactus to reach a size at which it can be sold.
Woman: Can technology help fight cactus theft?
Man: Yes, it can. Saguaro National Park has started implanting cacti with microchips to discourage criminals. Invisible microchips have been inserted into about 1,000 cacti in some areas of the park. If it’s suspected that a cactus for sale has been stolen, a quick scan and the use of our database will determine whether it has been taken from the park. Since the chips were installed, there have been fewer cases of cactus theft. The scheme has turned out to be so effective that other parks have started using the same method.
Woman: Thank you for talking to us, Ray.
Man: It’s my pleasure.
adapted from
Powrót do pytań