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J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Oct 3;101(1-3):1-15.

Ethnomedicinal and bioactive properties of plants ingested by wild chimpanzees in Uganda.

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  • 1Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie, Département Hommes, Natures, Sociétés, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 43 rue Buffon, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France.


Wild chimpanzees eat several plant species claimed by traditional healers to cure diseases. However, the behaviour leading apes to ingest these peculiar species is not clearly understood. Some of the items consumed by chimpanzees have low nutritional value, and there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that health might be improved or regulated by such ingestion. Observations concerning the diet and the health condition of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in the Kibale National Park (Uganda) are discussed in relation to the ethnomedicinal utilization of plant species reviewed in literature. Among the 163 plant parts known to be eaten by these chimpanzees, at least 35 (21.4%) are used in traditional medicine as treatments for intestinal parasites, skin infections, reproduction and respiratory diseases. Relationships with pharmacological properties are presented, taking into account the difficulties of interpreting ethnomedicinal data. In conclusion, a greater knowledge of ape's behaviour and health may provide a new complementary method to select plants for biomedical research.

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