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The majority of fine bows used by musicians worldwide are made from Paubrasilia echinata  (Pernambuco)wood. The quality of these bows is integral to the quality of music performed for listeners internationally. For this reason, musicians, bowmakers, performing arts organizations, and listening audiences value the pernambuco tree as an essential resource. The music community supports conservation efforts that will ensure the long-term sustainability of this wood, and supports CITES action that will responsibly regulate trade in Pernambuco, while also protecting essential international cultural activity.

As a reminder, bows made with pernambuco wood are exempt from requiring a permit, provided they do not also contain ivory or other protected species. The League partnered with U.S. bow makers, NAMM: The International Music Products Association, and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) to successfully protect the ability of orchestras to travel internationally with their instruments. At the 2007 CITES meeting, negotiators settled on adding the tree to the endangered species list, but applying the listing only to “logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets…,” specifying that finished bows that are transported internationally would not be subject to CITES permit and certification requirements. Read a Symphony article about this decision.

A letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior officially confirms that finished bows made of pernambuco wood can be transported across international borders.  The letter can be helpful for musicians to carry while traveling with bows as they pass through customs.

Essential Conservation Efforts

It is important to note that the issue of conserving the pernambuco tree remains. To preserve the ability of musicians to travel with their bows—and to sustain the long-term viability of this important natural resource—orchestras can participate in the conservation effort.

New CITES Policy Discussions Underway

November 14 to 25, 2022, the 184 worldwide parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will meet in Panama to participate in the 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP19), where international governments will agree to policies that balance trade and conservation needs for plant and animal species. The agenda for the meeting has been released and will include consideration of the Brazilian Pernambuco wood used to produce most bows played by professional string musicians. Talks will also include opportunities to improve the CITES Musical Instrument Certificate in use by traveling musicians and orchestras. Read more

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