Orangutan in the wild applied medicinal plant to heal its own injury

Here’s an interesting story of the continuum of life and learning.
Orangutan in the wild applied medicinal plant to heal its own injury, biologists say

Read in NPR: Orangutan in the wild applied medicinal plant to heal its own injury, biologists say


… Rakus was spotted with the new wound on June 22, 2022. Three days later, he started eating the stem and leaves of a liana — a vine that researchers say the orangutan population in Suaq rarely eats. From there, his behavior grew increasingly intentional and specific.

Rakus spent 13 minutes eating the plant, and then he spent seven minutes chewing the leaves and not swallowing, instead daubing the plant’s juices onto his wound. When flies began landing on his wound, Rakus fully covered it with leaf material and went back to eating the plant.

Within five days, the wound had closed. And by July 19 — around a month after the injury was likely sustained — “the wound appeared to have fully healed and only a faint scar remained,” the biologists said in their paper, published Thursday in Scientific Reports.

If Rakus was acting as his own nurse, he also seems to have been a good patient: the day after he initially applied the leaves, the orangutan found the plant once again and ate more leaves. He also rested much more than usual, which researchers say likely gave his body a better chance to heal. …

May 2, 2024 - Dr. Isabelle Laumer

We observed a wild male Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) applying chewed leaves from Akar Kuning (Fibraurea tinctoria) — a climbing plant used in traditional medicine to treat conditions such as malaria and has known antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving biological activities of relevance to wound healing — to a wound on his cheek. The findings, which are published in Scientific Reports, represent the first report of wound treatment by a wild animal using a plant with known medicinal properties.

Videos show male orangutan Rakus on the day as the wound was first observed, on the day he treated his wound with Fibraurea tinctoria, on the day after as he was feeding on Fibraurea tinctoria, and four and five days after wound treatment.

Paper published in Scientific Reports 2024

Title of publication: Active self-treatment of a facial wound with a biologically active plant by a male Sumatran orangutan

Authors: Isabelle B. Laumer, Arif Rahman, Tri Rahmaeti, Ulil Azhari, Hermansyah, Sri Suci Utami Atmoko, Caroline Schuppli

The article does mention that this was an unprecedented observation, still . . .

My response to my sib.

Thanks K,

That really was fascinating. I hadn’t heard about such self medicating and doctoring.

Pretty amazing, an example of the continuum of life, I think about, and write about.

We humans are evolved animals,

our blood ancestors went through those stages and kept advancing and kept learning and remembering,

becoming new creatures with time.

This understanding is a gateway to thinking about that most basic observation about our human condition,

the Physical Reality ~ Human Mind divide -

and how our minds and thoughts are the living reflection of our own biological body in action -

communicating with itself, as it’s dealing with processing the nonstop flood of inside and outside information coming and going.

Here we see what another relative can do with what it has.

Evolutionary success, no matter who the creature, human, mammal, fish, bug, whatever,

It is all about doing the best one can with what one has and being close enough for the moment,

Plus, good luck.


I was reading about him and found him to be a very intelligent ape. I can imagine humans doing this before modern science and medicine.