“First Time”: Wild Orangutan Self-medicates - Latest Global News

“First Time”: Wild Orangutan Self-medicates

A Sumatran orangutan named Rakus was seen using a plant to treat a facial wound that he may have sustained during a fight.

An orangutan in Indonesia was seen seemingly treating a wound with a tropical medicinal plant – the latest example of how some animals are trying to soothe their own illnesses with remedies from the wild.

Scientists saw the Sumatran orangutan named Rakus picking and chewing leaves of a medicinal plant used by people across Southeast Asia to treat pain and inflammation. The adult man then applied the plant juices with his fingers to an injury on his right cheek. He then pressed the chewed plant onto the open wound like a makeshift bandage, according to a study published Thursday in Scientific Reports.

Previous research has documented several species of great apes searching forests for medicine to heal themselves, but scientists had never seen an animal self-medicate in this way.

“This is the first time we have observed a wild animal applying a quite effective medicinal plant directly to a wound,” said co-author Isabelle Laumer, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Biology in Konstanz, Germany.

The observations took place in Gunung Leuser National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra when researchers noticed that Rakus had an injury in June 2022. They assume that he was injured during fights with rival male orangutans.

The team then saw Rakus chewing the leaves of a plant with the scientific name Fibraurea tinctoria “without swallowing them, and applying the plant sap directly from his mouth with his fingers.”

The plant, known as akar kuning in Indonesia, is rarely eaten by orangutans in the peat swamp forest area, which is home to about 150 critically endangered Sumatran orangutans.

Photos showed that the animal’s wound closed within a month without any problems.

Rakus, believed to have been born in 1989, is a male with flanges and large cheek pads on both sides of his face – secondary male sexual characteristics. He is one of the dominant males in the area.

Rakus’ facial wound healed in the weeks following the application of the plant juices [Armas, Safruddin/Suaq foundation/AP]

“It’s very likely self-medication.”

Scientists have been observing orangutans in Indonesia’s Gunung Leuser National Park since 1994.

“It’s a single observation,” said Emory University biologist Jacobus de Roode, who was not involved in the study. “But we often learn new behaviors by starting with a single observation.

“It’s very likely self-medication,” de Roode added, noting that the orangutan only applied the plant to the wound and not to other parts of the body.

Study co-author Caroline Schuppli of Max-Planck said it was possible that Rakus learned the technique from other orangutans who lived outside the park and away from the researchers’ daily control.

Scientists have previously observed that other primates use plants to heal themselves.

Orangutans on Borneo, the island between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, are known to rub themselves with juices from a medicinal plant, possibly to relieve body pain or drive away parasites.

In several locations, chimpanzees have been observed chewing on the shoots of bitter-tasting plants to calm their stomachs. Gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos swallow certain rough leaves whole to get rid of stomach parasites.

“If this behavior occurs in some of our closest living relatives, what might that tell us about the emergence of medicine?” said Tara Stoinski, president and chief scientific officer of the nonprofit Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, who had no role in the study.

Sharing Is Caring:

Leave a Comment