Wild orangutan in Indonesia seems to make use of medicinal vegetation to disinfect wound: ‘Possible self-medication’

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By Calvin S. Nelson

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An orangutan appeared to deal with a wound with drugs from a tropical plant — the newest instance of how some animals try to appease their very own ills with treatments discovered within the wild, scientists reported Thursday.

Scientists noticed Rakus, a wild male Sumatran orangutan in Gunung Leuser Nationwide Park, Indonesia, pluck and chew up leaves of a medicinal plant utilized by individuals all through Southeast Asia to deal with ache and irritation. The orangutan then used his fingers to use the plant juices to an harm on the precise cheek. Afterward, he pressed the chewed plant to cowl the open wound like a makeshift bandage, in line with a brand new examine in Scientific Studies.

Earlier analysis has documented a number of species of nice apes foraging for medicines in forests to heal themselves, however scientists hadn’t but seen an animal deal with itself on this manner.


“That is the primary time that we’ve got noticed a wild animal making use of a fairly potent medicinal plant on to a wound,” mentioned co-author Isabelle Laumer, a biologist on the Max Planck Institute of Animal Conduct in Konstanz, Germany.

The orangutan’s intriguing conduct was recorded in 2022 by Ulil Azhari, a co-author and subject researcher on the Suaq Challenge in Medan, Indonesia. Images present the animal’s wound closed inside a month with none issues.

Rakus, a wild male Sumatran orangutan in Gunung Leuser Nationwide Park, Indonesia, is seen on Aug. 25, 2022. The picture was taken after he used medicinal vegetation to deal with a facial wound, which was barely seen after the therapy. (Safruddin/Suaq basis by way of AP)

Scientists have been observing orangutans in Indonesia’s Gunung Leuser Nationwide Park since 1994, however they hadn’t beforehand seen this conduct.

“It’s a single remark,” mentioned Emory College biologist Jacobus de Roode, who was not concerned within the examine. “However typically we study new behaviors by beginning with a single remark.”

“Very seemingly it’s self-medication,” mentioned de Roode, including that the orangutan utilized the plant solely to the wound and no different physique half.


It’s doable Rakus realized the method from different orangutans dwelling exterior the park and away from scientists’ every day scrutiny, mentioned co-author Caroline Schuppli at Max Planck.

Rakus was born and lived as a juvenile exterior the examine space. Researchers consider the orangutan bought harm in a combat with one other animal. It is not identified whether or not Rakus earlier handled different accidents.

Scientists have beforehand recorded different primates utilizing vegetation to deal with themselves.

Bornean orangutans rubbed themselves with juices from a medicinal plant, probably to cut back physique pains or push back parasites.

Chimpanzees in a number of places have been noticed chewing on the shoots of bitter-tasting vegetation to appease their stomachs. Gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos swallow sure tough leaves entire to do away with abdomen parasites.

“If this conduct exists in a few of our closest dwelling family members, what may that inform us about how drugs first developed?” mentioned Tara Stoinski, president and chief scientific officer of the nonprofit Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, who had no function within the examine.

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