Members of the Princeton University Orchestra will be affected by the recent ban on the import of ivory when they go on tour to Ireland over Intersession in 2015. Many string instruments contain ivory, such as the tips of bows.
As of this February, any importation of African elephant ivory into the United States is forbidden, even if the owner does not intend to sell it for profit, according to the League of American Orchestras. Similar restrictions also apply to materials like Brazilian rosewood and tortoise shell, which are also derived from endangered plants and animals. These materials are often used in string instruments.
“Unfortunately for musicians, especially violinists, ivory is a substance that has been used for hundreds of years in the making of bows,” PUO conductor Michael Pratt said.
Musicians who own ivory-containing instruments acquired after February 1976 will have to obtain a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora permit in order to travel. Pratt said that this permit is as important to the instrument as a passport is to a person.
“No passport, no crossing the border,” Pratt explained.
Obtaining a permit can take many months.
“It requires a lot of due diligence on our part before we go on the tour because if you wait too long, you just can’t bring your instrument,” PUO violinist Daniel Wood ’18 said.
The application process also requires sufficient documentation, such as a bill of sale, indicating the date of purchase and the materials that were used in the instrument.
While the application process can be a bit of a hassle, PUO violist Catherine Hochman ’16 said she supports the ban on ivory, explaining that the benefits of protecting endangered species outweigh the inconvenience of having to apply for permits.
Fortunately, the ban will not have a great impact on PUO’s future activities, as not very many students have instruments or bows containing banned materials, Wood said. In addition, Pratt said that he plans to facilitate carbon bow rentals as a backup plan.
Members of the orchestra are looking forward to the tour nonetheless.
“Everyone really bonds and comes together as a group more,” Hochman said.
The orchestra's Intersession tour to Ireland is scheduled to depart at the beginning of Intersession.