Three people have been arrested from the Lakshadweep islands in Kochi for selling rare whale ambergris worth more than Rs 1 crore. Based on a secret tip-off received by the Lakshadweep forest officers, the accused were arrested on Wednesday with 1.4 kg whale ambergris (1 kg black ambergris and 400 gm white ambergris) with a market value of more than Rs 1.4 crore while they were trying to sell the ambergris at a private lodge in Vyttila in Kochi.
To stop the illegal sale, a team of forest officials from the island was deputed to Kochi along with the officials of the Kerala Forest Department and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau ( WCCB ), who also took part in the mission.
In a release, the Department of Environment and Forest, Lakshadweep, on Thursday said that the arrested people were natives of Andreotti and Amini island. Further investigation is underway and efforts are made to nab other accused involved in the crime. Ambergris is also commonly known as whale vomit and its sale is prohibited under the Wildlife (Conservation) Act, 1972.
It’s a waxy flammable substance that is produced inside the digestive system of sperm whales. After being accumulated for years inside the sperm whale’s stomach, the substance is then either vomited or excreted and floats in the ocean for years, undergoing various chemical changes to transform into Ambergris — a highly valued substance in the perfume industry, where it is used as a fixative as well as medicine industry. Due to its immense role in these industries, it’s often bought illegally at high prices. Thus its demand leading to the alleged extraction of the vomit by killing the giant sperm whales.
In the year 2021 alone, more than 4 cases have been reported of ambergris smuggling from states such as Mumbai where 1.3 kg ambergris worth 1.7 cr was captured. Similarly in the month of July, a gang of eight was arrested with 8 kg ambergris worth 12 cr in the Guntur district of Chenna. In the same month, the forest officials also arrested three accused from the Thrissur district of Kerala, who were trying to sell ambergris worth 30 cr.
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