A chunk of ambergris found inside a dead sperm whale on a beach in the Canary Islands has been valued at nearly half a million Euros.
The 13-metre- (43-foot) long, 20-tonne cetacean was found on Nogales Beach in La Palma, in mid-May.
Inside it, scientists found a 9.5-kilogramme (21-lb) chunk of ambergris, which has now been estimated at 500,000 Euros.
Forensic studies on the animal revealed last month (June) that its death was caused by the chunk of ambergris obstructing its intestine.
The obstruction led to it suffering from diphtheroid colitis, which caused bacteria from the intestine to enter the blood, resulting in bleeding in many organs.
Ambergris, sometimes dubbed “whale vomit”, is a solid waxy substance originating in the intestine of the sperm whale.
It is thought to be a substance protective against intestinal irritation caused by the indigestible horny beaks of squid and cuttlefish that the sperm whale feeds upon.
The whale’s intestine can accommodate only small chunks of ambergris, so larger pieces must be regurgitated.
It is one of the most valuable raw materials in perfumery and has a unique ability to increase the longevity of a fragrance.
Depending on its quality, it can command a higher price than gold.
The sperm whale (Physeter catodon) is the largest of the toothed whales. It is listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.