A Sumatran orangutan in Indonesia has self-medicated using a paste made from plants to heal a large wound on his cheek, say scientists.

It is the first time a creature in the wild has been recorded treating an injury with a medicinal plant.

After researchers saw Rakus applying the plant poultice to his face, the wound closed up and healed in a month.

Scientists say the behaviour could come from a common ancestor shared by humans and great apes.

“They are our closest relatives and this again points towards the similarities we share with them. We are more similar than we are different,” said biologist Dr Isabella Laumer at the Max Planck institute in Germany and lead author of the research.

A research team in the Gunung Leuser National Park, Indonesia spotted Rakus with a large wound on his cheek in June 2022.

They believe he was injured fighting with rival male orangutans because he made loud cries called “long calls” in the days before they saw the wound.

The team then saw Rakus chewing the stem and leaves of plant called Akar Kuning – an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial plant that is also used locally to treat malaria and diabetes.

He repeatedly applied the liquid onto his cheek for seven minutes. Rakus then smeared the chewed leaves onto his wound until it was fully covered. He continued to feed on the plant for over 30 minutes.

The paste and leaves then appear to have done their magic – the researchers saw no sign of infection and the wound closed within five days.

After a month, Rakus was fully healed. {read}