On February 25, 2014, new strict limits immediately took effect for traveling with instruments that contain elephant ivory. Following a new Obama Administration effort to protect African elephants from poaching by combating 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. The timeframe for actual implementation of this as musicians travel through U.S. Customs is uncertain.
Under the new 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 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.
It is not uncommon for professional orchestra musicians, particularly string players, to perform with instruments that contain small amounts of ivory, most frequently found in the tips of bows. It can be difficult to distinguish African elephant ivory from other types of ivory used in minute amounts. A great many musical instruments containing African elephant ivory, while legally manufactured and acquired, would have been purchased after 1976, and will now be completely prohibited from entering into the U.S. Still others that have not been sold since 1976 may be missing key documentation. The League is in ongoing dialogue with the USFWS to seek a solution that addresses wildlife conservation goals while also protecting international musical activity that requires musicians to travel across borders with the tools of their trade.
The Director's Order
Fish and Wildlife Service Ivory Ban Q & A, including section on Musicians and Musical Instrument Manufacturers
FAQ on the Executive Order to Strengthen Enforcement of the Endangered Species Act
Further Background from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Article from http://www.americanorchestras.org/advocacy-government/travel-with-instruments/endangered-species-material/ivory-ban-impact-on-orchestras.html