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CITES Regulations & Musical Instruments Containing Bubinga Wood - What To Know If You're Traveling Internationally

June 22, 2018
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UPDATE: As of November 2019, musical instruments that contain bubinga wood have been exempted from the CITES requirements for documentation. You can now travel with your harp or dulcimer without worrying about any of the stuff in this article!

The bubinga wood that we use in some Dusty Strings harps and hammered dulcimers was added to Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), effective January 2nd, 2017. Without going into great detail, this means that bubinga is now a protected species, and any bubinga wood crossing international borders is being monitored to make sure it was harvested legally and sustainably. The monitoring is done by way of permits, which the exporter must apply for by providing proof of the wood’s origins and having each instrument inspected by an official government plant expert prior to shipping it out of the country. This can be quite a burdensome process for everyone involved, but is ultimately an important piece of the conservation effort.

So what does this mean for you as the owner of a musical instrument containing bubinga? When you start to read about it, you learn that any cross-border travel or shipment is classified as an export, and any export must be accompanied by a permit, and the permit will cost you $75 and may take three months to apply for, and you may only be able to fly out of certain designated ports, and before you know it you’re canceling all your travel plans and deciding to stay at home where your beloved harp will be safe from all the scary government officials. But fear not, for Annotation #15 is here to rescue you!

According to this question and answer document provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is the CITES management authority in the U.S., Annotation #15 provides an exemption to the documentation requirements for non-commercial movement of instruments that contain 10 kg or less of bubinga wood. Having weighed all the individual bubinga components of our heaviest instrument model, which totaled 9.7 kg, we can certify that no Dusty instrument contains more than 10 kg of bubinga. So this means that as long as you’re not making a sale, you can travel with your Dusty harp or hammered dulcimer without worrying about CITES permits. Yay!

With small instruments, it will hopefully be obvious to any customs inspector that they are exempt from requiring a permit. Your bubinga FH36S, though, weighs a wee bit more than 10 kg all told, and could potentially raise questions. We’ve been unable to find any information on what you may or may not be required to prove, but we believe in being prepared for anything! Since there doesn’t yet seem to be any government-issued form to fill out, we’ve created our own document that you can print out and keep with you in case you are ever required to prove that your instrument qualifies for the 10 kg exemption.

Download Official Statement of Bubinga Weight

A few additional notes:

  • It is always wise to check with the CITES management authority in your destination country (or your home country, if it’s not the U.S.) to make sure they interpret this exemption in the same way the United States does. CITES is an international agreement, but each country enforces it in their own way.
  • Your instrument may contain bubinga even if bubinga is not the primary wood. Some of our Chromatic Series hammered dulcimers were built with bubinga bridges or bracing, so these models are covered in our certification statement as well.
  • If your Dusty instrument model is not listed on our statement, it means we have never included bubinga in that model, so you shouldn’t need to worry about any of this.

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