Orangutan uses medicinal plant to heal his injury

Orangutan uses medicinal plant to heal his injury

“When a wild orangutan in Indonesia suffered a painful wound to his cheek, he did something that stunned researchers: He chewed plant leaves known to have pain-relieving and healing properties, rubbed the juice on the open wound — and then used the leaves as a poultice to cover his injury,” reports NPR.

“This case represents the first known case of active wound treatment in a wild animal with a medical plant,” says biologist Isabelle Laumer,.

An orangutan named Rakus did this in a national park in Indonesia, in its big island of Sumatra. 15o orangutans live there in a protected rainforest. He apparently received the wound in a fight with another male orangutan:

A few days later, he was seen using a plant to treat his injury. The wound then healed, seemingly without any infection….Around a month after applying medicine to his wound, Rakus has fully healed, with only a slightly noticeable scar. This photo was taken roughly two months after the injury was first spotted.

Rakus was spotted with the new wound on June 22, 2022. Three days later, he started eating the stem and leaves of a liana — a vine that researchers say the orangutan population in Suaq rarely eats. From there, his behavior grew increasingly intentional and specific.

Rakus spent 13 minutes eating the plant, and then he spent seven minutes chewing the leaves and not swallowing, instead daubing the plant’s juices onto his wound. When flies began landing on his wound, Rakus fully covered it with leaf material and went back to eating the plant.

Five days later, the wound had closed. Three weeks later, “the wound appeared to have fully healed and only a faint scar remained,” notes a paper by biologists published yesterday in Scientific Reports.

Unlike humans, who often forget to take their prescribed medication, Rakus was a good patient: “the day after he initially applied the leaves, the orangutan found the plant once again and ate more leaves. He also rested much more than usual, which researchers say likely gave his body a better chance to heal.”

LU Staff

LU Staff

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