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US reviewing ivory seizure rules after teens' bagpipes confiscated at border crossing

CONCORD, N.H. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review its rules about ivory imports after two teenagers’ bagpipes were seized at the Canadian border, a spokesman said Friday.

The spokesman, Neil Mendelsohn, said customs agents were following established laws designed to prevent the import and export of illegally harvested ivory when they seized pipes belonging to Campbell Webster and Eryk Bean, 17-year-olds who compete on an international level.

Ivory harvested since 1976 is banned in the U.S.

“Our headquarters is examining this and looking at the policy and the regulations understanding that musicians do have a unique situation,” Mendelsohn said. “And we try to be reasonable, but for right now the rules are the rules. Any instrument these days could be made from elephant parts that might not be an antique.”

The discord started Sunday when Campbell and Eryk were driving back from Canada after a competition that served as a tuneup for next weekend’s World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. Campbell’s pipes date to 1936 and were played by his father, Gordon Webster, who was the 9th Sovereign Piper to Queen Elizabeth II of England.

Because the teens were using a “nondesignated” border crossing, they needed extra permits and inspection fees totalling $576 to carry the pipes, with their ivory projecting mounts, across the border. They didn’t have the paperwork, and the pipes were confiscated for a day.

The boys eventually got their pipes back and are in Glasgow, where their adventure has been the talk of the competition, Campbell’s mother, Lezlie, said Friday.