What is Ambergris?

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What is Ambergris? Blog Image


Recently, 9.5kg of ambergris was found in the carcass of a sperm whale which was washed up on a shore of the Canary Island of La Palm.

About Ambergris:


  • It has long been recognized as one of nature’s most enigmatic phenomena.
  • Ambergris which means grey amber in French, is a waxy substance that originates from the digestive system of protected sperm whales.
  • The freshly passed ambergris is a light yellowish substance.
  • Chemically, ambergris contains alkaloids, acids, and a specific compound called ambreine, which is similar to cholesterol. 
  • It is a rare substance, which contributes to its high demand and high price in the international market.
  • It is used
    • To produce perfumes which have notes of musk.
    • While there are records of it being used to flavour food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco in some cultures in the past.
  • There is a ban on the possession and trade of ambergris in countries like the USA, Australia and India.


Key facts about Sperm Whale

  • Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and have one of the widest global distributions of any marine mammal species.
  • Appearance
    • It is dark blue-gray or brownish, with white patches on the belly.
    • It is thickset and has small paddle like flippers and a series of rounded humps on its back. 
  • Habitat: It is found in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world.
  • Conservation status
    • IUCN: Vulnerable
    • CITES : Appendix I
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: schedule 2


Q1) What are Alkaloids?

Alkaloids are a diverse group of naturally occurring organic compounds that are often found in plants. They are characterized by their basic (alkaline) properties and typically contain one or more nitrogen atoms in a heterocyclic ring structure.

Source: Ambergris worth Rs 4 crore found in dead whale: what is this rare substance, what it is used for