When we think of smuggling and selling stuff on the black market we generally tend to think of either drugs or guns but in parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico the black market for Saguaro cacti is huge.
The Saguaro cactus is the first cactus that people think of when they here the word cactus. There are seven different variates of cactus that are on the endangered list in Arizona. Fortunately the Saguaro cactus is not among them. They are however illegally dug up from both public and private land and resold to collectors.
Many of these saguaro cacti that are illegal dug up can be sold for thousands of dollars. Many Saguaro cactus thieves sell there stolen saguaro cacti to wealthier residents in populated areas such as Phoenix.
The Saguaro thieves can usually get between $50-$70 per foot on a Saguaro cactus. If a couple of guys steal a 15 foot cactus they can then resell it for at least $750.00. Not bad money for a days work. The rate of growth for a Saguaro cactus is around an inch a year so if a Saguaro poacher steals a 15 foot Saguaro it would take mother nature many decades to replace that Saguaro cactus.
The Saguaro cactus does not have very deep roots. Regardless of the age of the Saguaro cactus they are usually pretty easy to dig up. The short roots of the Saguaro cactus and the high price collectors will pay for the Saguaro cactus make the Saguaro cactus an easy target for stealing.
Many people in arid desert climates such as Phoenix Arizona want a large Saguaro cactus in there yard as part of there landscaping. The problem is that with the slow growth rate of the Saguaro cactus the only way to get a tall Saguaro cactus is to purchase one. Generally these people will turn to the black market to find a large Saguaro cactus that can be transplanted into there yard. A lot of the time the Saguaro they get transplanted into there yard is one that was illegally cultivated.
The desert as we know it will be drastically changed for many decades if Saguaro cacti keep getting stolen. To keep the pristine deserts appearing beautiful you can do your part by reporting any suspicious activity. If your neighbor suddenly has a 20 foot tall Saguaro cacti in his backyard that was not there the day before then contact the proper authorities and they can research if your neighbor illegally purchased a Saguaro cactus that was stolen from public or private land. All Saguaro cacti that are over 4 feet tall need to have a license to be dug up and transported in Arizona. Even if you own the land you need to have the proper permits to dig up and remove the Saguaro cactus.
The Saguaro cactus is an important
species in the deserts of Arizona and in order to preserve them we
need to stop illegal cultivations of these magnificent cacti. The
Saguaro cactus is the postcard of the Arizona desert. We want to keep
the Saguaro cactus and not relegate the wild Saguaro cactus to the
history books. Image Credit: (Flickr/laszlo-photo)