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Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo


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There is some succour for bereaved families in an agreement City Parks has struck with Chaldean Trading to install microchips in gravestones. It is believed this will combat theft and vandalism.

Remembering loved onesRemembering loved onesTOMBSTONE theft and vandalism is an ongoing problem in many cities in the world. Often, people are bereft when the graves of their loved ones are desecrated; in other instances, graves that bear witness to history are damaged.

In an attempt to counter this problem, Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo has entered into a deal with Chaldean Trading, a local technology company, to develop a microchipping system for its West Park and Montgomery Park cemeteries. The system may go live in June. Mark Pringle, a director at Chaldean, said a small transmitter, called the Memorial Alert, would be embedded inside each tombstone.

"The microchip will trigger an alarm and send an SMS text message to selected members of the family and security guards informing them of the disturbance," said Pringle, adding that the company had already installed microchips in a few tombstones in West Park Cemetery.

Taking action to prevent the thefts of tombstonesTaking action to prevent the thefts of tombstonesBetween 15 and 20 tombstones are stolen a year from Johannesburg's 36 cemeteries, despite regular security patrols. Being large and isolated, cemeteries are easy targets for thieves globally, who prefer marble and granite tombstones because of their high value and durability. The tombstones are often sold to crooked stone masons who recycle them and sell them to the public. In some cases, stolen tombstones are used to make kitchen counters.

Pringle said Chaldean had a patent in South Africa and an approved patent in the United Kingdom for Memorial Alert. "We have also had queries regarding the product from as far as the United States, Netherlands and France."

There was growing interest in the product, and he had received calls from stone masons and funeral directors asking about installation. He said it would cost a once-off fee of R899 to have a microchip installed in a tombstone. "There will be no monthly fees to pay and every three years the company will replace the battery at a minimal cost, which will be the responsibility of the client, not City Parks."

Cemeteries in the City
For more information about Johannesburg's cemeteries click here or contact 011 712 6602 or email Nooreena Hendricks on nhendricks@jhbcityparks.com.

Reggie Moloi, Joburg City Parks and Zoo senior manager of cemeteries, said the City would not be involved directly in the project; rather installing the microchip would be part of an agreement between the families responsible for the graves and Chaldean. "Our involvement is purely based on the fact that they will operate within our premises and [they] will be solely responsible for marketing the concept to the families."

Moloi is confident the project will help minimise tombstone theft and vandalism. For more information about burial spaces, contact the City Parks cemetery call centre on 011 712 6602 or 011 712 6673.