In a groundbreaking study, a Sumatran orangutan has been seen using medicinal herbs to treat a facial wound, showing the high intelligence and practical skills of these primates. The male orangutan, after a suspected fight with another male, was observed applying sap and chewed leaves from a plant directly to an open cut. The leaves are from a liana climbing vine, a plant that is known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

While self-medication in wild animals isn't new, this specific behavior adds a fascinating layer to our understanding of primate intelligence. Previous examples include Bornean orangutans using chewed leaves to treat sore muscles and chimpanzees consuming plants to combat worm infections and applying insects to wounds.

Dr. Caroline Schuppli from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior highlighted the significance of this behavior, suggesting that the cognitive abilities required for such actions were likely present in our last common ancestor.

The detailed observation noted that the orangutan, named Rakus, chewed the leaves and applied the plant juice to his wound multiple times, making sure to cover the entire area. Remarkably, the wound healed within a few weeks, leaving only a small scar. The plant used by Rakus contains various beneficial properties, including antibacterial and antifungal effects.

It's still uncertain whether Rakus discovered this method himself or learned it from another orangutan, as no other individual has been observed performing this behavior. Still, this finding opens new avenues for understanding the depth of animal cognition and self-care practices in the wild.


Picture: Sumatran Orangutan (Wikimedia Commons)