An orangutan heals itself: this is the first time that this behavior has been observed in a great ape in the wild

An orangutan heals itself: this is the first time that this behavior has been observed in a great ape in the wild

Un orang-outan de Sumatra s'est soigné tout seul avec un pansement fabriqué à partir d'une liane (photo d'illustration). SyahrulRamadan – mediadrumimages/MAXPPP

L'animal souffrait d'une vilaine blessure au visage. Il s'est soigné tout seul en se confectionnant un pansement à partir de feuilles de liane. 

On his face, his flesh was exposed to the air, under the right eye and along the nostrils, reports France info in particular. This Sumatran orangutan didn't let it get him down. The great ape took care of himself with a bandage made from a vine.

First documented case

This is the first "documented case of treatment of an injury with a plant species containing active biological substances by a wild animal", underline the authors of an article published in the journal Scientific Reports, this Thursday, May 2 2024.

In Indonesia

Rakus, this is the first name of the primate, is followed with nearly 130 conspecifics, all in the wild, in an area of ​​the Indonesian Gunung Leuser National Park. He was probably injured during a fight with a nearby male, according to the main author of the study, primatologist Isabelle Laumer.

He covers his wound with vine pulp

Three days after his injury, the orangutan began to chew the leaves of a vine, locally called Akar Kuning (Fibraurea tinctoria by its scientific name) . He then brought his fingers coated with the juice to his wound, before covering it entirely with vine pulp. 

Five days later, Rakus' wound had closed. Two weeks later, the scar was barely visible.


This vine and similar ones "are used as traditional remedies for various ailments" according to the biologist. The study believes that Rakus' behavior was intentional.

Self-medication behaviors have already been observed in animals, particularly in primates. In the 1960s, the famous primatologist Jane Goodall first observed that chimpanzees were eating leaves that were later revealed to have an antiparasitic role. 

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