Musicians say ivory ban still hits wrong note

The music industry says it is disappointed with the exemption to the Obama administration's ban on African elephant ivory because it keeps in place a ban on selling some antique instruments.

The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said Thursday that traveling musicians would be allowed to take their instruments overseas, even if they contain small amounts of African elephant ivory.

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But the League of American Orchestras said the exemption did not address the domestic sales ban, which would "strip" antique instruments of their value and eventually take them out of circulation for future generations.

"Upcoming U.S. Fish and Wildlife proposals to prohibit future domestic interstate sale and re-sale of legally-crafted instruments that contain very small amounts of African elephant ivory will strip essential musical instruments of their value, and render them unavailable for use by future generations of musicians," the League said in a statement.

The FWS rule originally banned international travel with and sales of instruments containing ivory that had been purchased since 1976, when the ivory ban went into effect.

Musicians cried foul, as many prized instruments such as violins, cellos, pianos and guitars contain ivory pieces and parts. Orchestras warned the rule could force them to cancel overseas performances to avoid having their instruments seized by customs agents.

The exemption for musicians announced Thursday allows them to travel internationally with these instruments, but maintains the ban on selling them.

FWS Director Dan Ashe defended the exemption as a "reasonable compromise" in a call with reporters on Thursday.

The League said the exemption is an "important step in the right direction," but said it will continue to press for a broader change that will allow antique instruments to remain in circulation.