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Sperm whale found with unusual amount of ambergris promising for EU perfume makers

By Michelle Yeomans+

10-Apr-2013
Last updated on 10-Apr-2013 at 12:20 GMT

With ambergris being highly sought after by the fragrance industry, the recent finding of a sperm whale carcass in the Netherlands with an uncommonly large amount of the precious ingredient is promising for EU perfume formulators.

The whale washed ashore just off of Texel back in December and was dissected by Ecomare, a group that looks after the conservation and restoration in the North Sea, who uncovered the uncommonly large amount of ambergris in the mammal’s intestines.

These smelly chunks excreted by the intestinal tract of the whale are extremely rare and are of tremendous value for the perfume industry. The waxy substance is generally sought after for its scent and also for its ability to enhance other scents in high-end perfumes.

In recent years, supply shortage, price inflation and the fact that sperm whales are an endangered species has lead European perfume formulators to  develop alternatives to the ingredient.

Unusual finding

The nearly 30-ton adult male died at sea and washed ashore on the Razende Bol. It was a tremendous surprise when enormous chunks of ambergris, weighing a total of 83 kilograms, emerged out of the rectum of the sperm whale. Finding a dead sperm whale was already unusual; discovering a large amount of ambergris in the body made it unique,” a representitive for Ecomare said.

Ambergris is only found in 1 out of every 100 sperm whale bodies, usually in small amounts. It’s not very clear why some sperm whales produce ambergris and others don’t.

The whale is thought to produce the substance as a reaction to the irritation sharp food parts, such as beaks from squid can cause, so that no damage occurs. Normally, it is excreted but sometimes large amounts collect in the intestines and cause clogging.

The ambergis will be sold in the EU..

Since the finding, experts from France have examined the ambergris for Ecomare and based upon the quality, have estimated its value to be a few tons.

"The ambergris from the Texel sperm whale will eventually be sold. It is too valuable to be displayed. A small lump of it will stay at Ecomare and will be exhibited along with the skeleton of the sperm whale."

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