Wild Orangutan’s Unprecedented Wound-Healing Discovery

By: | May 10th, 2024

Image courtesy: Scientific Reports.

A Rare Glimpse into Orangutan Intelligence

Researchers in Sumatra gained a rare insight into the intelligence of orangutans when they observed a male utilizing a unique technique to treat a facial wound. The wild ape, believed to have been injured for approximately three days, exhibited behavior never previously observed.

This isn’t the first instance of apes being caught using potential medicinal plants. Chimps have been observed consuming a bitter plant believed to possess worm-fighting properties, and orangutans in Borneo have been seen munching on leaves possibly containing antibacterial and antiviral compounds. However, this Sumatran orangutan took things a step further.

Self-Treatment in the Wild

The research team witnessed intriguing behavior in the large ape, as it consumed leaves from a liana vine. Subsequently, it applied the resulting juice directly onto its wound and then covered the treated area with a paste derived from these leaves.

Furthermore, liana leaves have a long history of human usage in traditional medicine, boasting properties such as anti-fungal, anti-viral, antibacterial, and antioxidant effects, as confirmed by scientific investigations.

Surprising Problem-Solvers of the Rainforest

Following a five-day observation period, the team noted complete closure of animal’s wound without any signs of infection. Given that the ape consistently targeted the affected area with the poultice, the researchers infer that it might have been engaging in self-treatment. This instance marks the first documented case of a wild animal seemingly utilizing a plant with recognized medicinal properties for wound care.

This discovery contributes to the growing body of evidence suggesting that orangutans, like their chimp cousins, possess advanced problem-solving skills and a deeper understanding of the natural world than previously believed.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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