People get arrested for possessing banned substances like weed all the time. But in a bizarre incident, a 53-year-old man from Nagpur named Rahul Tupare was arrested on June 15 for illegally trying to sell 1.3 kgs of ‘whale vomit’ or ambergris in Mumbai worth Rs 1.7 crore ($2,43,678).
Now ambergris is different from your post-boozing barf. It’s actually a pretty rare and expensive wax that is secreted from the intestines of the sperm whale. While its main purpose is to protect the whales from being poked by the sharp beaks of the squid they eat, it comes out as vomit. Also known as 'floating gold', it can be found in tropical seas and is commonly used to make perfumes, since it doesn’t evaporate easily.
After receiving a tip that the man would be trying to sell this stone-like substance near Vidyavihar railway station in Mumbai, the police laid a trap and arrested him for violating the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), which states that any part of an endangered animal is illegal for sale. And since the sperm whale is an endangered species, it is protected under this act. Based on the interrogation with the accused, the police also arrested another man, Lalit Vyas, who allegedly gave the rocky lump to Tupare.
Though people have struck gold by simply stumbling upon intestinal slurry on beaches, how this man managed to get his hands on the sick find is still kinda fishy, and the cops suspect that he was involved in an illegal racket.
“Finding Ambergris is extremely difficult and is usually exported to gulf where it fetches very high prices. Fishermen, who believe it as a fortune, may have killed the whale and we are probing further into this,” a police officer in the know of the investigation told Hindustan Times. “There is also superstition attached to it. Burning it for good scent will make one rich is a notion."
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This article originally appeared on VICE IN.