Letter from the Director
The Gardens had 20 Encephalartos (rare African
cycads) stolen last night from the plantings near the Larabee House.
These were all large plants. Four of them were plants we received from
USFWS as confiscated specimens placed at QBG as part of our involvement
with plant rescue.
Dave, Jason, Sergio and Robert Kopfstein have
all helped with giving the report to the officers from the Sheriff's
Department. Susi and Bruce Ironmonger have also been here and will help
to get the word out to cycad nurseries and enthusiasts about the theft.
A friend of Roberts will have the list of stolen plants up on cycad
website today. Many of the plants are unique specimens and will be easy
to identify eventhough they have been defoliated. We also have photos of
most of them.
I have also left messages for the newspapers.
I would like to get the word out about the theft as soon as possible. It
could help with recovering the plants but it also will be important to
let any potential future perpetrators know that we will pursue
prosecution to the fullest possible extent. I also believe we should
offer a reward for information that would lead to an arrest. I have
requested and have been told that the Sheriff's patrol will provide
increased surveillance of our perimeter tonight (despite Superbowl) and
for the next week. We know how and where the thieves exited with our
plants and wish to make sure they do not return for what was left
While we have insurance that covers equipment
and buildings we do not carry insurance on the collection. Not many
botanical gardens do have this type of coverage because of the high
premium associated with unique and often priceless living specimens.
Most of the plants that were stolen have been donated to the QBG over
the years. This means of acquisition needs to continue to be open to QBG
and is hindered when possible donors cannot be confident that we have
adequate security for specimens of high value.
Cycads have been stolen from other botanical
gardens in the past and it may be that significant thefts are on the
rise. Just last year Fairchild Tropical BG, which has a collection far
greater that what we have at QBG lost a large number of very rare
cycads. I have not heard if they were successful in recovering any of
those plants but intend on contacting them to learn more about what they
have done to deter plant thefts.
We will also organize a group to review what
we can do to improve our capacity for security. There are many cycads
that are in need of ex-situ conservation efforts and given our climate,
QBG should play a role in conserving these plants. I do not think we
should give up on working with them because of this theft or threat of
theft. The extreme would be house and exhibit all of the high dollar
value plants in a high security area. Imagine an eight foot fence with
concertina wire on top and motion detector light beams surrounding the
perimeter. It would be the antithesis of the environment that we are
trying to provide for our guests but at the same time it would serve to
let people know what some of the challenges are in conserving certain
plants Cycads are not only stolen in botanical gardens but poaching is a
major reason why so many are endangered in the wild. Given the prices
these plants command in world trade there are some cycads who's
continued existence is in fact threatened solely by poaching.
Staff and volunteers such as Robert who have
worked very hard to see QBG develop the cycad collection and its care
feel personally violated by this experience. It is very sad that our
work can fall prey to such acts. However, we will learn from this
experience and from others who face the same challenges. Security from
theft is not the first thing that comes to mind when considering care of
the collection but we clearly need to give it more attention and plan to
here to see the list of stolen plants.
here to go to back to the PACSOF home page.
This site is copyrighted © 1998-2006, Palm & Cycad Societies of
For questions or comments, e-mail the webmaster.
Internet hosting provided by Zone 10,