Orangutan’s Use of Medicinal Plant to Treat Wound Intrigues Scientists

May 2, 2024 | Source: Reuters | by Will Dunham

In June 2022, a male Sumatran orangutan named Rakus sustained a facial wound below the right eye, apparently during a fight with another male orangutan at the Suaq Balimbing research site, a protected rainforest area in Indonesia. What Rakus did three days later really caught the attention of scientists.
Researchers on Thursday described observing how Rakus appeared to treat the wound using a plant known for its pain-relieving properties and for supporting wound healing due to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antioxidant qualities.
The orangutan chewed the plant’s leaves to produce a liquid that Rakus repeatedly smeared on the wound and then applied the chewed-up plant material directly to the injury, much like a wound plaster administered by doctors, according to primatologist and cognitive biologist Isabelle Laumer of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany.
Rakus also ate the plant, an evergreen vine commonly called Akar Kuning – scientific name Fibraurea tinctoria, added Laumer, lead author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, opens new tab. This plant is rarely eaten by orangutans in this peat swamp forest area, home to about 150 critically endangered Sumatran orangutans.