Instruments made from the skin or bone of endangered animals will be prevented from crossing borders without a passport under a new system designed to make it easier for orchestras to travel.
The owner of a piano with ivory keys or a violin bow crafted from tortoise shell will need to apply for a passport under the system agreed today by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“This is monumental because it facilitates movement of musicians, particularly orchestras,” explained Bryan Arroyo, head of the US trade delegation that proposed the scheme.
Previously, instruments have needed a new permit for each and every journey but the new multi-entry passports will be valid for three years of non-commercial travel.
Instruments made from animals for which international trade is completely banned will only be allowed passports if they were constructed before the ban took effect.
In the past orchestras have had to resort to drastic measures such as removing all the ivory keys from a piano in order to attend a concert in another country, according to one British removal expert specialising in antique pianos.
The expert welcomed the new system and told AFP: “No one wants to harm elephants but it seems a little ridiculous to have to apply for a CITES (permit) for a 120-year old piano.”
The US National Association of Music Merchants also recognised the introduction of passports for instruments as “a good first step”.