Researchers Witness Orangutan Using Medicinal Herb to Treat Open Wounds

How did scientists not know that orangutans used medicinal herbs?

Or did they just start doing this? Are they getting smarter?

Is global consciousness rising?

The Guardian:

The high intelligence levels of orangutans have long been recognised, partly due to their practical skills such as using tools to retrieve seeds and forage for insects. But new research suggests the primate has another handy skill in its repertoire: applying medicinal herbs.

Researchers say they have observed a male Sumatran orangutan treating an open facial wound with sap and chewed leaves from a plant known to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.

The team describe how, while tracking a male Sumatran orangutan called Rakus, they noticed he had a fresh facial wound – probably the result of a scrap with another male. Three days later, Rakus was seen feeding on the stem and leaves of Fibraurea tinctoria – a type of liana climbing vine.

Then he did something unexpected.

“Thirteen minutes after Rakus had started feeding on the liana, he began chewing the leaves without swallowing them and using his fingers to apply the plant juice from his mouth directly on to his facial wound,” the researchers write.

Not only did Rakus repeat the actions, but shortly afterwards he smeared the entire wound with the chewed leaves until it was fully covered. Five days later the facial wound was closed, while within a few weeks it had healed, leaving only a small scar.

The team say the plant used by Rakus is known to contain substances with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antioxidant, pain-killing and anticarcinogenic properties, among other attributes, while this and related liana species are used in traditional medicine “to treat various diseases, such as dysentery, diabetes and malaria”.

That’s amazing.