World's first orangutan to treat wound with medicinal plant | Wildlife News

A Sumatran orangutan named Ragus was seen using a plant to treat a facial wound sustained during a fight.

An orangutan in Indonesia was spotted treating a wound with a medicinal tropical plant – the latest example of some animals trying to cure their own ailments with remedies found in the wild.

Scientists have observed Sumatran orangutans called Ragus plucking and chewing the leaves of a medicinal plant that people across Southeast Asia use to treat pain and inflammation. An adult man applied plant extracts to a wound on his right cheek using his fingers. Then, he pressed the chewed plant into a makeshift bandage to cover the open wound. study In Scientific Reports published Thursday.

Previous research has documented many monkeys foraging for drugs in the wild.

“This is the first time we've observed air animals applying a potent medicinal plant directly to a wound,” said co-author Isabel Lamar, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Konstanz, Germany.

Researchers found the ragas injured in June 2022 in Gunung Leuser National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. They believe she was injured while fighting with rival male orangutans.

The team observed the raccoon chewing the leaves of the plant, which has a scientific name of Fibrauria tinctoria, “instead of swallowing them, using their fingers to apply the plant's juice directly from their mouths.”

Called agar kuning in Indonesia, the plant is rarely eaten by orangutans in the critically endangered peat swamp area, home to about 150 Sumatran orangutans.

Photographs show that the animal's wound closed within a month without any problems.

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Ragas, believed to have been born in 1989, is a fringe male with large cheek pads on either side of his face – secondary male sexual characteristics. He is one of the dominant men of the area.

Ragus' facial wound healed within weeks of using the plant's extracts [Armas, Safruddin/Suaq foundation/AP]

'It's probably self-medicating'

Scientists have been observing orangutans since 1994 in Indonesia's Gunung Leuser National Park.

“This is a singular observation,” said Emory University biologist Jacobus de Rood, who was not involved in the study. “But often we learn about new behaviors by starting with an observation.

“It's self-medication,” De Rood added, noting that the orangutan used the plant only on the wound and no other body part.

The study's co-author, Caroline Shupli at Max Planck, said Ragus may have learned the technique from other orangutans living outside the park and away from researchers' daily inspections.

Scientists have previously recorded other animals using plants to heal themselves.

Orangutans in Borneo, an island shared between Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia, are known to rub themselves with the sap of a medicinal plant to ease physical pain or ward off parasites.

In many places chimpanzees were observed chewing the shoots of bitter-tasting plants to soothe their stomachs. Gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos swallow some tough leaves whole to get rid of stomach parasites.

“If this behavior is present in some of our closest relatives, what does that tell us about how medicine first evolved?” said Tara Stoinski, president and chief science officer of the nonprofit Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which had no part in the study.

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