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Orangutan treats own wound with pain-relieving plant in world first
Published on: Friday, May 03, 2024
By: Bernama
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Orangutan treats own wound with pain-relieving plant in world first
Rakus was photographed with a facial wound (left). Two days later he applied chewed leaves from an Akar Kuning plant to the wound. After a month, the wound on Rakus's cheek was healed (right). – Photos by Armas (left) and Safruddin (right)
BERLIN: An orangutan in Indonesia has been spotted treating a wound with a medicinal plant, the first time the behaviour has been seen in a wild animal, German researchers have revealed.

Biologists from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour in Germany and Universitas Nasional in Indonesia observed a male Sumatran orangutan, called Rakus, who had sustained a facial wound.

Rakus was observed eating, and then repeatedly applying, sap from a climbing plant with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties commonly used in traditional medicine, to his wound. He also covered the entire wound with the green plant mesh, biologists said, reported German news agency (dpa).

Isabelle Laumer from Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour said Rakus probably sustained the facial wound during a fight with a neighbouring male.

"The behaviour of Rakus appeared to be intentional as he selectively treated his facial wound on his right flange, and no other body parts, with the plant juice," Laumer said.

"The behaviour was also repeated several times, not only with the plant juice but also later with more solid plant material until the wound was fully covered. The entire process took a considerable amount of time."

The wound showed no signs of becoming infected, the scientists said. 

The plant, known locally as Akar Kuning, is used as a medicine by the Indonesians. It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antioxidant and other healing properties, Laumer said.

The findings could offer insight into the evolutionary origins of wound medication, scientists said.

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