Monday, 06 May 2024 11:28

An orangutan from Indonesia uses a medicinal plant to self-treat its wounds.

A wild orangutan uses a medicinal plant to self-treat its wounds A wild orangutan uses a medicinal plant to self-treat its wounds pixabay

In Indonesia's Gunung Leuser National Park, a wild male orangutan named Rakus demonstrated an extraordinary self-medication ability by using a plant known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. This is the first observation of its kind where scientists have witnessed a wild animal directly using medicinal plants.

What will you learn?

1. What behavior did the wild orangutan Rakus demonstrate?
2. What plant was used to treat the orangutan's wound?
3. What does the discovery mean for understanding animal behavior?
4. Who was involved in observing the wild orangutan?
5. What could this discovery mean for the history of medicine evolution?

Unique Behavior of Rakus

On June 22, 2022, Ulil Azhari, a field researcher from the Suaq project, observed Rakus picking and chewing the leaves of a plant that Southeast Asian local communities use to alleviate pain and inflammation. The orangutan then applied the chewed leaves to a wound on his cheek, creating a sort of natural dressing. This observation was documented and described in an article published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Scientific Analysis of the Phenomenon

Isabelle Laumer, a co-author of the study and a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Konstanz, stated that this is the first observation of a wild animal applying a potent medicinal plant directly to a wound. Researchers speculate that Rakus might have learned this technique from other orangutans not under constant observation.

Jacobus de Roode, a biologist from Emory University, emphasized that although this is a single observation, it is often from individual cases that we learn about new animal behaviors. Caroline Schuppli, another co-author of the study, suggests that Rakus could have been observing and learning from other orangutans outside the research area.

Conclusions and Further Research

Rakus's behavior opens new possibilities for scientists to further explore self-medication among animals and its evolutionary roots. Tara Stoinski, president and chief scientific officer of the non-profit Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, who did not participate in the study, wonders what such behaviors might mean for understanding the origins of medicine in evolutionary history.

Significance of the Discovery for Science

This discovery not only sheds new light on the complexity of animal behaviors but may also contribute to a better understanding of how humans might have learned from animals in using natural medicinal resources. Further research in this area could reveal more about natural survival strategies that animals have employed for thousands of years.


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