Whale vomit, which is often known as Ambergris, is a waxy, combustible, solid substance that is produced in the intestine of sperm whales. It is also called the ‘floating gold’.

Four members of a gang in Uttar Pradesh have been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police Special Task Force for smuggling 4.12kg of ambergris or whale vomit worth Rs 10 crore. The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 forbids the sale of whale vomit, which is a sought-after component for perfumes.

A police statement reads on twitter, “On 05.09.2022, four members of a gang involved in smuggling of Ambergris banned under the Wildlife Protection Act were arrested from Gomtinagar Extension Area police station in Lucknow with 4.120 kgs of Amberghis worth Rs.10 crore.”

Produced in the digestive tract of whales, it is believed to have a high medicinal value and is a sought-after ingredient in exotic perfumes.

The substance is found in the sea in a stone-like form as it hardens over time after being ejected as an intestinal slurry by sperm whales.

According to reports,  in the international market, 1kg of ambergris is sold for Rs 1 crore as the compound, ambrein, is only produced by sperm whales. Due to its unique fragrance, ambergris is considered a highly valued substance.

Since ancient times, ambergris has been used in high-end, exotic perfumes and traditional medicines. The Egyptians used it as incense, and the Chinese called it “dragon’s spittle scent.”

Sperm whales are said to be found mostly in the Arabian Sea off Gujarat, and the Bay of Bengal off Odisha.

This year, several people have been taken into custody for selling ambergris illegally.

In July, ambergris worth crores were seized from Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Raigad and a few persons were arrested by police and Forest department officials.

In January, Raigad Police arrested three persons with five kg ambergris worth Rs 5 crore. Last December, the Property cell of the Thane police had recovered 1 kg ambergris from three persons.

In September 2021, officials of unit -7 of the Mumbai crime branch had arrested two persons from suburban Mulund with brownish stones and powder weighing 5.910 kg.

In August, fisherfolk operating from Worli’s Lotus Jetty surrendered nearly 5kg of ambergris to officials from the forest department and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).

In May, the Special operation group (SOG) of Anand district arrested six persons with two pieces of whale vomit weighing 736 grams estimated to be worth Rs 73.60 lakh.

In July this year, whale vomit worth Rs 28 crore was reportedly spotted by a group of fishermen in Kerala, and they turned it over to local authorities.

Danger to sperm whale

Recently officials said, “The rise in the instances of the seizure of ambergris has triggered fear that either sperm whales are being poached or there can be adulteration in the substance, as it is highly valued.”

The illegal ambergris trade takes place with the help of brokers and middlemen as fishermen don’t have contacts in the industry and they did not get the expected rate, he explained.