Fur-Rubbing as a Form of Self-Medication in Pongo pygmaeus
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Orangutans exhibit fur-rubbing possibly for medicinal use. I hypothesize that they use a species of Commelina, an uncommon herb in the peat-swamp forests of Central Kalimantan, Borneo, as either an antibacterial or anti-inflammatory agent. In Central Kalimantan, local indigenous people use the same species as an external medication to treat their arms after a stroke, for muscular pain, and for sore bones and swellings. Thus, the possible convergence of human and orangutan use of Commelina may indicate that orangutans are using it for a similar purpose.
KeywordsCommelina fur-rubbing orangutan self-medication
I thank Suwido Limin, Director of CIMTROP and the Rektor of University of Palangkaraya (UNPAR), for sponsoring the project; the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) for permission to undertake research in Indonesia; Simon Husson, Carel van Schaik, Mike Huffman, Anne Russon, David Chivers, and Marina Kenyon for advice and comments; Zery Yeen and Erna Shinta for plant identification and information on how locals use the species; Carly Waterman, Ben Buckley, Kirsten Manduell, and Mark Harrison for supplying me with information from the field; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Great Apes Conservation Fund), Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, Wildlife Conservation Society, and LSB Leakey Foundation for financial support.
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