Indian police seize whale vomit worth nearly $300,000 from traffickers

Police carried out a raid following a tip-off, confiscating 2.2 kilograms of the substance, also known as ambergris, or 'floating gold'

Ambergris from the North Sea - an extremely rare find off the coast of northern England. The substance is used in the perfume industry. Alamy
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Police in India’s southern Mangalore city have arrested four traffickers and seized ambergris, or whale vomit, worth nearly $300,000.

The men were arrested in the coastal city in Karnataka state as they attempted to sell the substance, which is banned by the government under the country's Wildlife Protection Act.

Ambergris, also known as “floating gold”, is a solid, waxy substance found in the intestines of the endangered sperm whales.

It is used for potions and traditional medicines and to stabilise the scent of fine perfumes due to its musky notes.

The substance is banned in many countries because sperm whales are a protected species and any possession or trade of their by-products is illegal.

The police carried out a raid following a tip-off and seized 2.2 kilograms of the substance.

The accused had allegedly procured it from a man in Kerala, Hariram Shanker, Commissioner of Police for Law and Order, said.

“Mangalore is a place where international trade happens through ships and secondly it is a perfume centre. Whale vomit is used for making costly perfumes and these men came here to sell the ambergris,” Mr Shanker told The National.

“As per the wildlife authorities, the market value of one kilogram of ambergris is 1 crore rupees ($133,164). These men are arrested under non-bailable offences and could be punished between five and seven years if convicted,” Mr Shanker said.

This is the second time this month that the city police have seized ambergris. On February 8, six people with 3.4kg of ambergris were arrested.

Updated: February 17, 2022, 12:03 PM