From Josh Henry
Please read this if you play a stringed instrument. There is new legislation that affects you:
It is not illegal to own, sell, or maintain bows with ivory--until now.
Please read U.S. Department of the Interior Director’s Order 210, 2/11/2014 (3 pages)
Here is Appendix 1 of Director’s Order 210 (5 pages)
Here is the Q&A for Director’s Order 210 (7 pages)
Many violin, viola, cello, and bass bows have genuine ivory tip plates that are original, and some even have frogs of ivory, but having been made in the 20th century are not considered antique (defined by legislation as 100 years old). I regularly use pre-CITES banned elephant ivory (pre-1976) in the restoration of important and historic bows, and Many bows that are more modern contain "mammoth ivory," "fossil ivory," or even bone rather than elephant ivory, but customs officials are largely ignorant of the differences and identification, and the burden of proof is placed on the possessor of the item. So a mammoth tipped bow, while legal, would need proof that it is not elephant ivory.
What this means, however, is that ANY musician with a bow containing any form of ivory, risks that bow being confiscated and immediately destroyed by customs officials upon crossing the US border. I don't want to be alarmist, but I would hate to see an unaware traveler have their property seized.
I (and other bow makers and restorers) do work with CITES-controlled species such as ivory, tortoise shell, baleen, some species of pearl shell and leather, and now even the pernambuco and ebony that the bows are made from are on the CITES list as endangered or threatened. As a specialist that makes and maintains bows, I currently work within the rules of this country, but with this rule change, just maintaining a bow by replacing a broken tip plate or even selling an old bow with an ivory tip plate could be considered “trafficking in endangered species” and subject to jail and enormous fines. This new legislation could end my career, and hinder the career of many musicians. While I have supported conservations efforts and anti-poaching initiatives, and am absolutely appalled by the slaughter of wildlife for sourcing these materials, this new legislation is far too broad-reaching and will affect the daily movement of musicians and violin shops.
There needs to be control and action when it comes to endangered species, but there also needs to be learning, education, and common sense on the part of the enforcers and the public. It is too soon to tell how this new legislation will affect things for musicians, bow makers, and dealers of bows. However, it sure sounds like the U.S. Department of the Interior is taking the approach that it can confiscate and destroy anything with ivory and then fine and jail anybody that has it. This is not good!
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