July 19, 2024

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This orangutan in Sumatra treats himself with herbs

This orangutan in Sumatra treats himself with herbs

Male orangutan Rakos suddenly developed a deep, unsightly gash under his right eye, posing a high risk of infection in the unforgiving wilderness of Sumatra. Behavioral biologists saw this with horror as they conducted their daily monitoring of wild orangutans at the Suak Palembing Research Area, where they have been monitoring the population since 1994. That area is located in the vast Gunung Leuser National Park on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Three days after researchers first saw Rakos infected, something unusual happened. Researchers describe In the scientific journal Scientific reports. They saw him selectively plucking the leaves of a type of vine known as acar kuning (Februria tinctoria). He chewed it and then repeatedly applied the released juice to the wound on his face. As a final step, Rakos covered the entire wound with chewed leaves, as a form of compress. Unfortunately, there are no photographs or cinematic recordings of this self-care, the researchers wrote. We have to suffice with description.

Regardless, the treatment seems to have helped Rakos well. A week later, the wound was closed, and after a month it had healed to the point where almost nothing was visible.

Rakus without wound.
Photography: Souq Foundation/Agence France-Presse

Akar kuning and related liana species, which grow in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, are also used in traditional herbal medicine. According to researchers, preparations extracted from these plants are known for their analgesic, antipyretic and diuretic effects. They are used to treat dysentery, diabetes, and malaria, among others. Chemical analysis of the plant previously showed that it contains some terpenoids and alkaloids, substances known to have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antioxidant effects, all of which are beneficial in wound healing.

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“This represents the first systematically documented case of active wound treatment with a plant species known to contain bioactive compounds by a wild animal,” the researchers wrote. They go further: “This provides new insights into the origins of human wound care.”