New U.S. Rules to Allow Travel and Trade of Bows with Ivory

June 2, 2016, 1:21 PM · Good news for bowmakers and anyone traveling with bows: new revisions to U.S. rules on African elephant ivory will allow musicans to buy and sell instruments with a small amount of ivory and to carry them on international flights, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday.

The relaxation of rules for musicians is actually part of a near-total elephant ivory ban by the U.S., to cut off opportunities for traffickers.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said that after listening to the concerns of various groups, the Service is "allowing commonsense, narrow exceptions for musicians, musical instrument makers and dealers, gun owners and others to trade items that have minimal amounts of ivory and satisfy other conditions.”

“We are so pleased,” League of American Orchestras vice president for advocacy Heather Noonan told the New York Times. “We’re particularly pleased that the rule confirms that domestic trade and international travel with existing musical instruments that contain small amounts of African elephant ivory aren’t contributing to the poaching crisis.”

Ivory tips

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Order 210, meant to protect African elephants from poaching by banning the commercial elephant ivory trade, came out in February 2014 and posed grave logistical problems for musicians, who were told their their bows had to meet complex requirements and also instructed to document the ivory in their bows. Bows with African elephant ivory were to be accompanied by a CITES ("Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species") musical instrument certificate, but how to obtain one was anyone's guess.

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June 3, 2016 at 06:08 PM · VIolin repair people now use Mammoth ivory replacement tips. So real ivory is less common, if you have had a tip replacement in the last few years, it may be Mammoth ivory and not need a statement.

June 3, 2016 at 08:32 PM · Good News - unless you encounter the trigger happy customs officer who'll still break your Voirin and then asks questions afterwards! I can't guarantee his absence.

June 3, 2016 at 10:38 PM · 129....., if you read previous posts on this site, customs officers didn't always believe that mammoth ivory tips weren't elephant ivory, and the owners got into trouble anyway.

June 4, 2016 at 03:27 AM · I make silver tips for good un-named bows. Very light weight and with individual decal.

June 4, 2016 at 05:22 PM · When do the new rules take effect? And does one need any paperwork under the new rules?

June 4, 2016 at 06:07 PM · It's true. I'd recommend printing out that press release for now, and highlighting the part about the musical instruments.

June 5, 2016 at 02:59 AM · No elephant should ever have to become part of the bow of a stringed instrument . Period!

June 8, 2016 at 12:26 PM · Great news! Still it might be worth waiting a bit to see what happens. My luthier here told me in 2014 in answer to my question that yes, the white tip of my bow (bought back int he 1970s!)was most probably ivory and suggested colouring it in with a black pen! However, on a recent trip from Copenhagen to Kansas City it seemed easiest to leave both fiddle and bow at home. Negotiating entry to the U.S. after an 8h+ flight is unpleasant enough as it is. Of course the decision was made easier by the fact that I wasn't traveling there to play but to conduct library research at Kansas University, Lawrence.

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