An Edmonton musician studying in New York City says worries over a U.S. ban on African elephant ivory forced him to cancel an audition with the Winnipeg Symphony.

Taddes Korris uses a bow tipped with ivory to play his double bass and worries his expensive bow could be confiscated if he crosses the border.

Taddes Korris

Taddes Korris is studying music in New York City. (CBC)

“When you come to a concert or performance, you want to be at your A game,” he said. “I don't think anyone wants to take a risk when it comes to these fantastic bows and instruments.”

An executive order from U.S. President Barack Obama banning the importation of elephant ivory came into effect as a way to stop the slaughter of African elephants.

Jan Urke, a double bass player with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, says the ban could jeopardize the Cleveland Symphony’s upcoming trip to Edmonton.

“If we were in the same position as we were two years ago to go to Carnegie Hall, that might put a complete damper on our travel plans because we may all return without our bows,” he said.

Urke says a lot of the ivory tips are more than 50 years old. He wonders if agents will be able to tell what's illegal.

“Who's to make the differentiation between the mammoth ivory and the elephant ivory?” he asked. “Especially a customs officer at the border?”

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, professional musicians and orchestras are allowed to import instruments with elephant ivory if it was legally acquired before 1976 and accompanied by written documentation.

Korris says it can be impossible to provide that proof and he says that documentation can only get instruments through certain airports in the United States which can complicate the routing of flights back to Canada.

He says replacing the ivory in his bow could cost thousands of dollars.