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Orangutan Seen Using Medicinal Plants to Treat Wounds in Wild Animals | World News

An orangutan was observed using a plant with healing properties to treat a wound on the face. According to scientists, this is a first for wild animals.

Biologists observed a male Sumatran orangutan named Rakus chewing the leaves of a vine called Akar Kuning.

He applied the juicy mixture made from it to a wound on his right cheek for more than 30 minutes until the injury was completely covered.

Scientists said he selectively tore off leaves and chewed them before precisely applying the resulting mixture to the injured area just below his right eye.

A male Sumatran orangutan named Rakus is seen two months after self-treating the wound with a medicinal plant in the Suaq Balimbing research area, a protected rainforest area in Indonesia, with the facial wound barely visible under the right eye (in this handout - Picture).  August 25, 2022. Safruddin/Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Biology/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY, NO RESALE.  NO ARCHIVE COMPULSORY CREDIT
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Two months after his self-treatment, the wound is barely visible. Image: Reuters

There were no signs of infection in the following days and in less than five days the wound was closed before healing completely within a month, the researchers added.

The Akar Kuning plant, found in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, is known for its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects and is widely used in traditional medicine to treat diseases such as dysentery, diabetes and malaria.

Rakus was not observed taking it elsewhere, so researchers concluded he likely used the medicinal plant to treat the wound.

Dr. Isabelle Laumer, a primatologist and cognitive biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Behavioral Biology, said Rakus sustained the wound three days earlier, likely during a fight with a neighboring male.

She said tests of the plant’s chemical compounds showed it had a type of alkaloid that “contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antioxidant and other biological activities relevant to wound healing.”

Rakus was also observed resting more than usual after being wounded.

Dr. Laumer said: “Sleep has a positive effect on wound healing because the release of growth hormones, protein synthesis and cell division are increased during sleep.”

A wild male Sumatran orangutan was observed chewing the leaves of a vine called Akar Kuning
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Image: PA

What was less clear to the team was how the monkey learned about Akar Kuning’s healing properties.

Dr. Laumer said orangutans at the Suaq Balimbing research site in Indonesia “rarely eat the plant…” [but] People may accidentally touch their wounds while consuming this plant, thereby inadvertently applying the plant’s sap to their wounds.

In other words, Rakus may have discovered its advantages by accident.

The Akar Kuning plant, found in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.  Image: Suaq Project/PA
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The Akar Kuning plant is found in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. Image: Suaq Project/PA

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The team said their findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports, could shed light on how knowledge of wound medicines developed in humans.

It was said this was the first time a wild animal had used a plant with known medicinal properties to treat wounds.

The site in Indonesia is a protected rainforest area that is home to 150 Sumatran orangutans.

It is an endangered species of which about 7,500 remain, the World Wildlife Fund said on its website.

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