League Weighs in on Ivory and Instruments

March 21, 2014

Yesterday, the League made the case for protecting international travel with musical instruments at a public meeting of the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. The statement calls on the Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to take into full account the essential nature of international travel with musical instruments, and to work with the music community to develop policies that support conservation efforts while also protecting international cultural activity.

On February 25, 2014, new strict limits immediately took effect for traveling with instruments that contain African elephant ivory. In an effort to protect African elephants from poaching by combating illegal trade in ivory, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ordered strict enforcement procedures related to the Endangered Species Act and the African Elephant Conservation Act. According to the broad terms of the order, many instruments containing African elephant ivory may not be allowed into the U.S., even if a musician is simply returning with instruments in his or her personal possession.

We fully support efforts to protect endangered species. We are concerned by very specific aspects of the ban that will significantly impact musical activity, and we are seeking a policy solution in partnership with our colleagues at the American Federation of Musicians, The Recording Academy, Chamber Music America, the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers, and NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants.

Orchestras regularly invite international artists to perform for U.S. audiences, tour internationally, and musicians frequently travel abroad to perform as soloists and members of small ensembles. A great many musicians, particularly string players, perform with instruments that contain small amounts of elephant ivory, most commonly found in the tips of fine bows. Ivory may also be found in an array of string instruments, wind instruments, and certain percussion instruments. Musical instruments currently in use that contain African elephant ivory, while legally manufactured and acquired, are likely to have been purchased after ban’s cut-off date of 1976, and will be completely prohibited from entering or re-entering into the U.S.

The League is in ongoing dialogue with policy leaders to seek both short and long-term solutions that address wildlife conservation goals while also protecting international musical activity that requires musicians to travel across borders with the tools of their trade.

Please find more on the rules for traveling with instruments containing protected species material through the following links to the League’s website.

Many unanswered questions remain about the process for being in compliance with these new rules, and the actual timeline for enforcement at U.S. borders is unclear. We will let you know as soon as we find answers. In the meantime, please contact the League’s Washington, D.C. office for more information.