Authorities in southern Arizona are hoping the public will help identify vandals who destroyed several iconic cactus plants Saturday in Saguaro National Park.
The vandals damaged not only the park’s namesake saguaro cacti, but cholla and prickly pear cacti. They could face felony charges and jail time if caught.
The saguaro cactus occurs exclusively in the Sonora Desert — southern Arizona and western Sonora, Mexico — and is classified as a “highly protected native plant” in Arizona.
According to 12 News, special permits are required even to harvest their fruit or seeds.
The saguaro cactus grows slowly but can reach 50-plus feet. Some specimens in Saguaro National Park are between 150 and 200 years old.
The Tucson Sentinel reports that at least one saguaro was chopped down, and several others were damaged.
The vandalism occurred along the Gould Mine Trail, near the Kings Canyon Trailhead in the park’s west district.
Photos showing the damaged cacti were posted Monday morning on the park’s Facebook page, saddening fans of the park.
Reads one comment: “This will keep happening as the children of today and tomorrow are further removed from nature. If they aren’t exposed to it they don’t respect it or nurture it.”
Reads a second comment: “This sickens me! Why in the world would anyone feel the need to damage these cactus? Hope the vandals are found and punished to the max extent of the laws.”
The park is asking anyone with information about the incident to call: (800) 637-9152.
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