In an unprecedented discovery, scientists have observed an orangutan in Indonesia, Rakus, self-medicating with a paste made from plants to heal a wound on his cheek. This event marks the first time that an animal has been recorded in its natural environment treating an injury with a medicinal plant. The observation, published in the journal Scientific Reports1, highlights the significance of this discovery within the framework of One Health, an interdisciplinary approach that recognizes the interconnectedness between human, animal, and environmental health.

This finding underscores how insights derived from observing animal health and behaviour can have direct implications for human health. The use of medicinal plants by orangutans raises important questions about the potential to discover new therapies or natural medicinal compounds that could benefit humans.

Additionally, it emphasizes the interdependence between healthy ecosystems and the health of animal populations. The ability of animals to seek out and utilize natural resources to treat illnesses or injuries underscores the importance of conserving natural habitats and biodiversity as integral components of global health.

The case of Rakus illustrates how the study of animal health in their natural environment can provide valuable insights to advance a broader understanding of global health, where human, animal, and environmental health are inherently interconnected. This integrated approach is crucial for addressing emerging health challenges and promoting a healthier and more sustainable future for all.


  1. Laumer, I.B., Rahman, A., Rahmaeti, T. et al. Active self-treatment of a facial wound with a biologically active plant by a male Sumatran orangutan. Sci Rep 14, 8932 (2024).
  2. Rannard, G. (2024, May 2). Wounded orangutan seen using plant as medicine. BBC News.



Ximena Wellmann, MPH, BPH
Research Assistant
Escuela Andaluza de Salud Pública