Orangutan Observed Using Medicinal Herb To Heal Wound

in Culture

Biologists from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Konstanz, Germany and Universitas Nasional, Indonesia observed a large male orangutan self-medicating—using a paste of chewed up plants topically to heal a large wound on his cheek. It’s essentially a wild animal that appears to intentionally make his own medicinal salve.

A peer-reviewed study was published Thursday in Scientific Reports, demonstrating the first time scientists have observed this specific behavior from an orangutan. The biologists first saw the behavior in 2022 when the orangutan was badly wounded. Rakus is an orangutan that lives in Gunung Leuser National Park in Sumatra, and when he was wounded on his cheek with a gaping hole, he sprung into action, behaving in a way scientists have never seen before in a non-human.

Lead researcher Dr. Isabelle Laumer, a primatologist and behavioral biologist confirmed the findings to High Times. “We observed a male Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) who sustained a facial wound,” researchers wrote. “Three days after the injury he selectively ripped off leaves of a liana with the common name Akar Kuning (Fibraurea tinctoria), chewed on them, and then repeatedly applied the resulting juice onto the facial wound. As a last step, he fully covered the wound with the chewed leaves.”  Watch the orangutan here the first time he was observed behaving this way. (Laumer et al., 2024 Scientific Reports)

Laumer et al., 2024 Scientific Reports

The researchers saw no indications of infection and the wound closed within five days. After a month, Rakus’s wound was fully healed.

Fibraurea tinctoria is a plant that demonstrates anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and it can be used locally to treat malaria and diabetes. Humans have been using medicinal salves for thousands of years, but this behavior is rarely seen in wild animals. 

“The treatment of human wounds was …

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Author: Benjamin M. Adams / High Times

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