Leaf swallowing and parasite expulsion in Khao Yai white‐handed gibbons (Hylobates lar), the first report in an Asian ape species
Leaf swallowing behavior, known as a form of self‐medication for the control of nematode and tapeworm infection, occurs widely in all the African great apes ( Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii , P. t. troglodytes , P. t. verus , P. t. vellerosus , Pan paniscus , Gorilla gorilla graueri ), except mountain gorillas. It is also reported to occur in a similar context across a wide array of other animal taxa including, domestic dogs, wolves, brown bears, and civets. Despite long‐term research on Asian great and small apes, this is the first report of leaf swallowing in an Asian species, the white‐handed gibbon ( Hylobates lar ) in Khao Yai National Park, central Thailand. We present the first evidence of leaf swallowing ( Gironniera nervosa Planch CANNABACEA) behavior ( N = 5 cases) and parasite ( Streptopharagus pigmentatus ) expulsion ( N = 4 cases), recorded during 4,300 hr of direct animal observations during two distinct research projects. We recovered 4–18 rough, hairy, and hispid surfaced leaves from each sample, undigested and folded, from the freshly evacuated feces of five different individuals (2 males, 3 females, 5 to 34+ years old) living in three different social groups, between the hours of 06:00 to 10:30. Based on close inspection of the leaves, as observed in chimpanzees, it was clear that they were taken into the mouth, one at a time, folded and detached from the stem with the teeth before swallowing them whole. All instances occurred during the rainy season, the time when nematode worms were also found in the feces, although they were not found together with leaves in the same feces. These striking similarities in the details of leaf swallowing between white‐handed gibbons and African great apes, and other animal species, suggest a similar self‐medicative function.
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