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Biodiversity & Environment

Ambergris

  • 26 Jun 2021
  • 3 min read

Why in News

Recently, the Mumbai Police has arrested five people and seized nearly 9 kg of Ambergris.

Key Points

  • About:
    • 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.

Sperm Whale

  • About:
    • 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.
  • Habitat:
    • They are found in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world.
  • Threats:
    • 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.
  • Protection Status:

Source: IE

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