Mumbai: A 53-year-old man was arrested in Ghatkopar for attempting to sell 1.3 kg of ambergris (whale spew), worth Rs 1.7 crore in the illegal market, police said on Tuesday.
Ambergris or 'whale vomit' is a rare and expensive wax that is produced as a secretion in the intestines of sperm whales to protect them from the sharp beaks of squid, which they eat, and is passed as vomit. Also called 'floating gold', it can be found floating in tropical seas and is used as a fixative in the process of manufacturing perfumes, since it is slowest in evaporating.
Acting on a tip-off, a joint team of police and forest department officials laid a trap on Saturday in the Cama Lane of suburban Vidyavihar area, and nabbed Nagpur resident Rahul Dupare, police said.
"We seized 1.3 kg of ambergris, worth Rs 1.7 crore, from him. It is a prohibited item. We have registered a case under the relevant sections of the Wildlife Protection Act and have arrested Dupare," a police official said.
The Wildlife Protection Act (1972) states that any part of an endangered animal is illegal for sale. The sperm whale, protected under this Act, was declared an endangered species in 1970.
Although ambergris can be found floating in the sea, the possibility of that happening is quite rare. Therefore, a team has been dispatched to Gujarat for further investigation since the possibility of Tupare being involved in an illegal racket cannot be ruled out, the Mumbai police added.
Ambergris is soluble in alcohol, chloroform, ether and certain volatile and fixed oils. The substance was seized from Tupare has been sent to a lab for further examination.