The Ghatkopar police in Mumbai arrested two people for attempting to sell “whale vomit” or ambergris worth around Rs 1.7 crore in the illicit market, Hindustan Times reported on Wednesday.
Ambergris is a wax that is produced in the digestive system of sperm whales. Perfume-makers have used the substance in their formulas for centuries. Sperm whales are an endangered species and protected under the Wildlife Act. The accused have been arrested under the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act.
The accused were identified as 52-year-old Rahul Tupare who hails from Nagpur and a Gujarat resident Lalit Vyas. The police said they were in possession of ambergris weighing a little more than a kilogram.
“When we caught Tupare, he was found in possession of semi solid rock like lump,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 7), Akhileshkumar Singh was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times. “Based on Tupare’s questioning, police picked up another person Lalit Vyas, 44, from the city who hails from Gujarat. It was Vyas who gave the natural byproduct to Tupare. Experts have examined the seizure who have prima facie confirmed that it is ambergris.”
The Ghatkopar police have sent a team to Gujarat to investigate further links in the case. “We suspect involvement of more people and a racket cannot be ruled out,” Singh said. The seized lump will be sent to a laboratory for further tests.
Although people have often discovered chunks of ambergris on the surface of the ocean or on seashores, police have not ruled out the possibly of it being obtained by killing sperm whales.
“Finding ambergris is extremely difficult and is usually exported to the Gulf where it fetches very high prices,” an unidentified police officer said. “Fishermen, who believe it as a fortune, may have killed the whale and we are probing further into this. There is also superstition attached to it. Burning it for good scent will make one rich is a notion.”
In October last year, the Thane Crime Branch had arrested three people in possession of Rs 2 crore worth of “whale vomit” and 6 kg pangolin scales worth Rs 20 lakh. The accused had claimed to have found the substance floating in Ratnagiri sea in the southwestern part of Maharashtra.