Orangutan Self-Medication: A Groundbreaking Discovery in Animal Behavior

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Well, biologists in Germany and Indonesia have observed a wild orangutan engaging in a surprising act of orangutan self-medication.

The male Sumatran orangutan, who had a face wound, repeatedly applied sap from a climbing plant known for its medical characteristics to the lesion. This self-medicating habit, which is unique for a wild animal, sheds light on orangutans’ cognitive abilities.

Ancestral Echoes: This Behavior Hints at Shared Traits Between Humans and Orangutans

Caroline Shley, the study’s supervisor, emphasized the relevance of the orangutan’s self-medication habit. “While animals have been observed treating themselves before,” she added, “this is the first time we’ve seen a wild animal deliberately use a plant with known anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties to treat a wound.”

The plant, known as Akar Kuning, is a vine that locals have traditionally used for medicinal purposes, including wound treatment due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial characteristics.

Learning from Nature: Did the Orangutan Figure it Out or Observe Others?

The researchers aren’t sure how the orangutan received his face wound, but they assume it was caused by a battle with another male. Interestingly, the wound healed quickly following the orangutan’s self-medicating action. It recovered almost fully in a few weeks after closing in a few of days.

Shley further explained that the orangutan may have learned this self-medicating behavior through observation. Orangutans in this area are known for their ability to learn from each other.

This discovery offers intriguing insights into the evolution of such behaviors. Since both orangutans and humans exhibit orangutan self-medicating, it suggests this behavior might have been present in their last common ancestor. This implies that the basic cognitive abilities required for such behavior have existed for a long time.

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Shley emphasized that while the extent to which the orangutan understood its actions remains unknown, this behavior undeniably demonstrates advanced capabilities in orangutans, potentially shared with their human ancestors.

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