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First Documentary Of A Wild Orangutan Using Plants To Heal A Wound

wild orangutan applpying plant medicine to an open wound. Image by BBC news on YouTube.

Orangutans have long captivated us with their remarkable intelligence and unique behaviors, and their uncanny human-like nature. Among the great apes, these solitary creatures stand out for their resourcefulness and adaptability. Newfound research accounts for the first documentary of a wild orangutan using plants to heal a wound. Let’s learn more about this and the orangutan’s adaptability.

Orangutan Basics

Orangutan learn from their Mum
Orangutan learn everything they need from their mum. Image via Bruce Poon, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Orangutans inhabit the lush rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. They are the largest arboreal mammals, spending most of their lives in the trees. Their distinctive reddish-brown fur and expressive faces make them instantly recognizable.

Using Plants to Heal a Wound

Female orangutan portrait. Image via depositphotos.

Recently, a fascinating scientific article surfaced alongside various new stations covering the story via YouTube. The research shows a wild orangutan’s extraordinary behavior. In the study, an injured orangutan is seen chewing on a particular plant and then applying it to a face wound – probably sustained from fighting with other males in the area. Surprisingly, the study found that the plant that the orangutan was applying was not in their regular diet, demonstrating a remarkable understanding of medicinal plants.

Read the scientific article here.

An Unprecedented Display of Intelligence

Orangutan
Orangutans can be a little naughty at times. Image via cuatrok77, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The orangutan’s use of the plant to treat its wound astounded researchers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. This behavior suggests a level of cognitive sophistication previously underestimated in non-human primates.

Cultural Learning and Innovation

orangutan
Orangutan. Image by SURZet via Depositphotos

Orangutans are known for their ability to learn from each other and innovate new behaviors. This healing ritual might be a cultural practice passed down through generations, highlighting the importance of social learning in orangutan communities. Interestingly, the study found that chimpanzees are the only other apes that use plants to self-medicate.

Conservation Implications

Orangutan
Orangutan. By Ridwan0810 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60332364

Understanding the depth of orangutan intelligence and their reliance on natural resources underscores the urgency of conservation efforts. Deforestation, habitat destruction, and the illegal wildlife trade pose significant threats to orangutan populations, endangering not only these incredible creatures but also the delicate ecosystems they inhabit.

Conclusion

orangutan
Orangutan. Image by Chuttersnap via Unsplash.

This new research on the orangutan using a plant to heal its wound offers a glimpse into the intricate world of these fascinating primates. It shows us of the importance of protecting their habitats and preserving their way of life.

Orangutans will continue to inspire awe and admiration, reminding us of the interconnectedness of all life on Earth. I hope you enjoyed reading about this fascinating discovery, a wild orangutan heals its wound with plant material. To read more stories lie this, check out the articles below:

References:

Laumer, I.B., Rahman, A., Rahmaeti, T. et al. Active self-treatment of a facial wound with a biologically active plant by a male Sumatran orangutan. Sci Rep 14, 8932 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-58988-7

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