Chimpanzees Use Insects As Medicine To Treat Wounds!


Insects are to chimpanzees what Tylenol is to humans. Believe it or not, these apes have discovered the most peculiar way to treat wounds – their own, and those of their friends. This medicating behavior was first observed in the year 2019 by Alessandra Mascaro, a volunteer and budding evolutionary biologist who then reported this spectacle.  During her research at Loango National Park, Mascaro was filming a female chimpanzee called Suzee and her son Sia in the forests of Gabon.  She observed that the mother had snatched an insect from a green leaf, licked it and then applied it to the wound on the son’s leg. The insect was essentially used as a salve to treat an open wound. After this observation was documented and duly reported, the team started paying close attention to it. The use of insects as medicine by chimps was noted down over 20 more times.l at the forest.

Chimpanzees Use Insects As Medicine To Treat Wounds

PhD student Lara Southern who happened to be a part of the same research team observed an adult male chimpanzee pulling a leaf towards his mouth to grab an insect, clamping it between his lips, possibly to smush it, holding it between his thumb and forefinger and then applying it to an old wound in the crook of his arm. Researchers concluded that chimpanzees had been following the same ritual for wound healing, which was surprising because the behavior had never been documented before. 

But self-medication wasn’t all. For context, elephants, birds and other friends in the animal kingdom have played doctors for themselves. It is, however, our understanding that animals usually lack empathy, and even though chimpanzees like to hunt in groups, the fact that they empathized with fellow chimps and used the insect-salve to placate their sufferings was shocking. In simple terms, chimpanzees played nurse for their friends and family. 

Chimpanzees Use Insects As Medicine To Treat Wounds

Till date, researchers have been unable to identify the exact insect that chimps use as salve, but observations point towards it being a flying insect. This is because of the quick grabbing and instant reflexes the primates use to catch their medicine

Chimpanzees have always been animals of interest for zoologists and biologists around the world. Their territorial patrols and cooperative hunting are topics of discussion because this community behavior is not easily observed in animals. 

But to love thyself and thy neighbor? The compassion and care that has been observed and documented when chimpanzees used insects as medicine shows that they are closer to humans than we had thought. 

Chimpanzees are not the only smart friends we have in the animal kingdom. They may use insects as medicine, but ants actually capture ants to make ant slaves. Find out how!


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