Recently, the Mumbai Police has arrested five people and seized nearly 9 kg of Ambergris.
- Ambergris, French for grey amber, is generally referred to as whale vomit.
- It is a solid waxy substance originating in the intestine of the sperm whale.
- Ambergris is produced only by an estimated 1% of sperm whales.
- Chemically, ambergris contains alkaloids, acids, and a specific compound called ambreine, which is similar to cholesterol.
- It floats around the surface of the water body and at times settles on the coast.
- Because of its high value it is referred to as floating gold. 1 kg of ambergris is worth Rs 1 crore in the international market.
- It is used in the perfume market, especially to create fragrances like musk.
- It is believed to be in high demand in countries like Dubai that have a large perfume market.
- Ancient Egyptians used it as incense. It is also believed to be used in some traditional medicines and as a spice.
- Due to its high value it has been a target for smugglers especially in coastal areas.
- There have been several cases where the coastline of Gujarat has been used for such smuggling.
- Since the sperm whale is a protected species, hunting of the whale is not allowed. However, smugglers are known to have illegally targeted the fish in order to obtain the valuable Ambergris from its stomach.
- Sperm whale, (Physeter catodon), also called cachalot, the largest of the toothed whales, easily recognized by its enormous square head and narrow lower jaw.
- The sperm whale is dark blue-gray or brownish, with white patches on the belly. It is thickset and has small paddle-like flippers and a series of rounded humps on its back.
- They are found in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world.
- The greatest threats to sperm whales are those of habitat impacts including noise pollution and climate change.
- Other threats include entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships, and proposals to allow for a commercial hunt once again.
SOURCE: THE HINDU,THE ECONOMIC TIMES,MINT