American pipers scrambling for CITES permits before heading to Glasgow

Published: July 21, 2014
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A classic set of Highland pipes with real ivory mounts are increasingly at risk of being confiscated by US Customs authorities.

With rare exceptions, newly harvested elephant or “marine” ivory has not adorned new sets of Highland pipes since the early-1980s, but instruments made before that time frequently used the now-banned material for projecting mounts, ferules, soles and rings.

And American pipers travelling with older drones with ivory ornamentation are concerned that a recent crackdown by their government will result in the permanent confiscation of their precious instruments. With dozens of American pipers planning to travel to both the North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario, Canada, and the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow concerns are spreading as fast as wildfire.

Ron Bowen of St. Catharines, Ontario, who operates a website called The Bagpipe Place is trying to make things easier for pipers, with information on the matter, and even a program to assess and certify pipes with older ivory manufactured before the US government’s June 2014 strict enforcement of what they consider to be an illegal use of ivory.

Penalties if caught can not only result in the confiscation of an instrument, but fines and even imprisonment, although there is no known case of the latter two punishments.

The last page of Ron Bowen’s assessment of Scott MacDonald’s MacPhee drones.

Essentially, pipers with ivory adorned instruments need a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) permit that proves either that the instrument was imported before 1990 in accordance with CITES regulations, or imported prior to 1976, before relevant CITES regulations were enacted, and that the pipes were acquired before February 25, 2014.

Bowen warns that if pipes are seized by US Customs officials, there is little chance of their return.

“They are often donated to museums or used in public displays to educate travelers about the risks of travelling with endangered species products without the required permits,” Bowen said. “You may see displays like this at many large airports. In some cases, seized items are destroyed.”

In preparation for his trip to Scotland with the Grade 1 Los Angeles Scots Pipe Band, Scott MacDonald is taking every precaution, starting with an assessment of his circa-1880 Donald MacPhee silver and ivory-mounted drones by Bowen, and now with the recent delivery of his CITES permit.

MacDonald recently learned that each time he travels out of and back to the United States with his pipes he will need to arrange an interview and a . . .

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  1. brucegpiper

    It is ridiculous to think of stripping the ivory off of an old set of Hendersons to travel. But, myself, and perhaps many others simply cannot afford to have a $100 meeting everytime they cross the border and more importantly, while I love the ivory and the look of the pipe, I happen to love the tone, and the fact that they have been in my family over 50 years and I do NOT want to stop playing the instrument just because it has ivory on it. Nor, do I want to play another set in the US at the important events like Metro Cup and USPF. I fully support the ban on ivory, but, you should only have to purchase one C.O.A and a cites certificate and as long as you remain the owner, nothing should change. All of the other charges they’re putting out there are just a desperate money grab by the US government

    Bruce

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