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This is part of a letter that was just circulated by the League of American Orchestras:
On February 25, 2014, new strict limits immediately took effect for traveling internationally with instruments that contain African elephant ivory. Following a new Obama Administration effort to protect African elephants from poaching by combatting illegal trade in ivory, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) ordered strict enforcement procedures related to the Endangered Species Act and the African Elephant Conservation Act.
According to the order, many instruments containing African elephant ivory will not be allowed into the U.S., even if a musician is simply returning to the U.S. with instruments in their personal possession, not intended for sale. Under the rules, a musical instrument that contains African elephant ivory may only be brought into the U.S. if it meets all of the following criteria: was legally acquired prior to February 26, 1976; has not subsequently been transferred from one person to another person for financial gain or profit since February 26, 1976; the person or group qualifies for a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) musical instrument certificate; and the musical instrument containing African elephant ivory is accompanied by a valid CITES musical instrument certificate or an equivalent CITES document.
A great many professional orchestra musicians, particularly string players, perform with instruments that contain small amounts of ivory, most frequently found in the tips of bows. Most of these musical instruments, while legally manufactured and acquired, would have been purchased after 1976, and will now be prohibited from entering into the U.S.
There has long been a requirement, when buying a new bow containing ivory, to register it and pay a $75 fee for what amounted to a bow passport: a document the musician could show at a border crossing that would allow the bow to enter the US. This new regulation overrides those passports. It bars all bows containing even minute amounts of ivory in their frogs, documentation or none, if they do not meet the four above-listed criteria. If they were bought after 1976, or if their documentation has been lost along the way, they are prohibited.
So border officials will now be authorized to confiscate, and possibly destroy, the bows of violinists and cellists, in case the indignity of being physically manhandled and treated like a suspect at a border crossing isn’t quite enough. This has consequences, obviously, not only for American orchestral musicians and soloists traveling abroad on their return journeys, but also for foreign musicians who might think twice about coming to the US, which has apparently gone off the deep end completely.
A TSA official now has the authority to snap Yo-Yo Ma’s bow across his knee, but we really need to ease travel restrictions on people “who gave “limited” support to terrorists or terrorist groups.” But priorities are a matter of personal philosophy, no? Who’s to say who’s right?
Rest easy, African elephants. The US has got your back.
(Hat tip: Michael Totten)