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Dr. Orangutan

A wild male orangutan in Indonesia was observed applying a medicinal paste to a scrape on his face, according to new research. It's the first documented example of an animal self-medicating a wound using a plant with healing properties.

Roughly 14,000 orangutans inhabit the northwest portion of Indonesia's Sumatra island. In 2022, the 35-year-old, named Rakus, was seen plucking and chewing leaves of the anti-inflammatory Fibraurea tinctoria plant—also known as yellow root and commonly used by humans to treat illnesses like malaria and dysentery—later applying both the juice and bits of leaf to the scape like a bandage. The wound healed after eight days. Scientists suspect Rakus may have observed the skill from orangutans outside the national park he was observed in.

Orangutans feed on over 400 types of plants in the biodiverse region, though rarely yellow root; no other individual has been seen self-medicating in the region. Researchers have noted the species increasingly learns socially when food is abundant. 

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