Instruments Made of Endangered Species Now Require A Passport

By Sean Kane , Mar 13, 2013 07:04 PM EDT

Some musical instruments now need a passport to travel between different countries.

Instruments containing parts made from endangered species will now need a passport to leave the country. Oddly enough, this is being done to make transporting the instruments easier.

The new rules were enacted at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species held in Bangkok, Thailand. The 178 member convention made the decision on Wednesday.

“This is monumental because it facilitates movement of musicians, particularly orchestras. Think about all the paperwork that is going to be saved,” Bryan Arroyo, head of the U.S. delegation that pushed the change, told AFP. “It is a great victory.”

Formerly, instruments made of endangered species required permits for every trip to a different country. This led to major problems for large orchestras, who tend to carry old instruments made of all sorts of exotic and now illegal materials. Some groups have had to resort to removed all the ivory keys from antique pianos just to get them through customs. Others have had to jump through hoops to travel with their violin bows made from tortoise shells.

“No one wants to harm elephants but it seems a little ridiculous to have to apply for CITES (permit) for a 120 year old piano,” a British antique piano moving expert, who asked the AFP not to be named, said.

The new rule should make traveling easier for world class musicians, whose high quality instruments are often made of exotic animal parts.

“[Musicians] travel extensively for concerts throughout the world very frequently with a very tight schedule,” said Kazuko Shiomi, the president of the Nippon Music Foundation in Japan. This new rule would make it much easier for musicians who borrow the foundation’s priceless Stradivarius for performances around the world.

The instrument passports are valid for three years. Instruments made from animals whose international trade is prohibited can be granted one of these passports only if the instrument was made before the animal’s trade was outlawed.

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