What is Ambergris ?

What is Ambergris?

  • Ambergris, French for grey amber, is generally referred to as whale vomit. However, Christopher Kemp, the author of ‘Floating gold: A Natural and (unnatural) history of Ambergris’, says this is not right.
  • A sperm whale eats several thousand squid beaks a day. He says occasionally, a beak makes it way to the whale’s stomach and into its looping convoluted intestines where it becomes ambergris through a complex process, and may ultimately be excreted by the whale.

    Ambergris
    Source: – Wikipedia

  • It is a solid waxy substance that floats around the surface of the water body and at times settles on the coast.

Is it valuable?

  • This excretion is so valuable it is referred to as floating gold. As per the latest estimates given by Mumbai Police, 1 kg of ambergris is worth Rs 1 crore in the international market.
  • The reason for its high cost is its use 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.

Why are the laws on Ambergris?

  • 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.
  • However, as per Kemp, it is produced only by an estimated one per cent of sperm whales.

Source: IE


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