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Ivory Trade Ban Has Local Musicians Worried

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American efforts in the war against African ivory poachers may have repercussions for the Cleveland Orchestra and other musicians around the country. ideastream's David C. Barnett reports on proposed federal rules that put restrictions on instruments with ivory components.

Friday, April 25, 2014 at 5:23 pm

This past February, President Obama signed off on the proposed rule that would place a near total ban on anything made with ivory moving in or out of the U.S. The point is to close the door on the black market ivory trade. Craig Hoover, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says there’s been an alarming increase in slaughter of African elephants for their tusks.

CRAIG HOOVER: This is on the order of 30,000 elephants per year, over the last few years, and we're trying to stem the tide.

JENNIFER BARLAMENT: And, ironically, that impacts us.

Cleveland Orchestra general manager Jennifer Barlement says orchestra members have reason to be anxious about the new rule --- decorative ivory parts are common in bassoons and stringed instruments, including violins, violas and cellos. Musicians who travel overseas fear their instruments could be seized as they go through customs. The new rule would exempt older instruments but that requires proof of purchase prior to 1976.

Among others potentially affected by the ban are antique dealers and gun dealers who trade in ivory handle pistols. Organizations representing all these groups are pressing for greater accommodation. The Administration says it’ll try to work something out before the new rule takes effect later this year.

The Cleveland Orchestra hopes so. It starts a three-week European tour in September.

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