In Tamil Nadu, India, authorities seized 8 kilograms of ambergris (commonly known as sperm whale "feces" or whale "vomit") in a sting operation resulting in two arrests. Ambergris is a waxy substance produced in the bile ducts of sperm whales. It's been used in perfume (and served as a delicacy) for centuries although in some countries its possession and trade is illegal under bans prohibiting the use of products from endangered whales. One gram can sell for as much as $25.
"We've seen these stories where fishermen communities have found ambergris and it completely changed their fortunes overnight, simply because they are in countries where it's legal to trade them," Humane Society International's Sumanth Bindumadhav told VICE World News.
The latest raid on Oct. 25 was part of a sting operation conducted by wildlife officials, in which they posed as prospective buyers to trap the suspects. The case adds to the growing list of ambergris seizures in India. In July alone, six ambergris seizures were reported in the cities of Mumbai and Thane[…]
"While there used to be a time where people would incidentally find ambergris floating around in the ocean, what it could lead to is people killing sperm whales in large numbers and looking for [ambergris] simply because the probability of otherwise finding it is so minimal," said Bindumadhav.
image of unrelated ambergris samples: Ecomare; Derivative work: MagentaGreen – This file was derived from: Ecomare – ambergris van potvis in 2012 (potvis2012-ambergris-2164-em).jpg: Ambergris of a Sperm Whale (2012 in the Natural History Museum Ecomare) (CC BY-SA 4.0)