Injured orangutan seen treating his own wound with medicinal plant — a scientific breakthrough

Injured orangutan seen treating his own wound with medicinal plant — a scientific breakthrough

Orangutans are such incredible, intelligent animals. They are one of the closest relatives to humans in the animal kingdom, and often display some remarkably human-like behavior.

Now, researchers say they witnessed a scientific first, as one injured orangutan was seen healing himself with medicinal plants.

The breakthrough finding was published on May 2 in Scientific Reports. In June 2022, researchers at Gunung Leuser National Park, a rainforest reserve in Sumatra, witnessed a male Sumatran orangutan named Rakus treat a facial wound using a medicinal plant.

The orangutan picked and chewed leaves of Akar Kuning, a plant used in traditional medicines and known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. He then applied the resulting juice onto the wound, and covered the wound in the chewed leaves.

Within days, Rakus’ wound had closed and healed — and the scientists say it is a groundbreaking example of an animal healing its own wound.

Scientific Reports (Sci Rep) ISSN 2045-2322 (online)

“This possibly innovative behavior presents the first systematically documented case of active wound treatment with a plant species know to contain biologically active substances by a wild animal and provides new insights into the origins of human wound care,” the paper’s abstract reads.

Rakus treated his wound without any human intervention or instruction. The rainforest he resides in is protected, and researchers are able to observe their natural behaviors in a non-invasive manner.

The researchers also emphasized that he sought out this specific plant, and applied it only onto the wounded area. While there has been some previous evidence of primates using plants to treat wounds and illnesses, this is the first instance of an animal deliberately applying a plant known for its medicinal qualities.

“[This] is the first observation of a wild animal actually treating his wound precisely with a medical plant,” Isabelle Laumer, a cognitive biologist and primatologist at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany and lead author of the study, told National Geographic.

It’s not clear how Rakus was injured originally; it’s possible he fell out of a tree or was wounded in a fight with another orangutan.

Researchers say that the breakthrough discovery could help us learn more about the ancient origins of natural healing methods.

“We often lose sight of the fact that modern medicine is derived from a very ancient system of knowledge that began millions of years ago in a variety of habitats about which our knowledge is only beginning to expand,” biological anthropologist Mary Ann Raghanti told National Geographic.

“From an evolutionary point of view, this instance provides a window into how our own ancestors may have developed their natural pharmacy.”

They also hope that this groundbreaking discovery sheds new light onto just how intelligent orangutans are — and the importance of protecting them.

Sumatran orangutans are a critically endangered species with an estimated worldwide population of 14,613. They have suffered greatly from habitat loss, as their already sparse rainforests have been destroyed by the palm oil industry.

Orangutans are such incredible, intelligent creatures — it’s amazing that this orangutan knew how to treat his own wound using a medicinal plant!

Please share this incredible news!


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