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What is Ambergris?

Ambergris:

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.

Use:

  • 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.

Smuggling:

  • 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.

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