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natural pet


Nature’s Remedies


How Animals Self-Medicate


by Sandra Murphy


Every species embodies a solution to some environmental challenge, and some of these solutions are breathtaking in their elegance.


— Linda Bender Animal Wisdom: Learning from the Spiritual Lives of Animals F


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rom birds and elephants to dolphins, animals, whether by instinct or learned behavior, have discovered ways to cope with parasites, pests, aches and pains. Tis science


of self-medication is called zoopharmacognosy (zoo for animal, pharma for drug and cognosy for knowing). At home, a dog or cat that eats grass is practicing it to eliminate parasites or hairballs. Donald Brightsmith, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University,


directs the Tambopata Macaw Project in the lowlands of south- eastern Peru, studying the many macaws and other parrots that gather clay to eat as a supplement. First thought to help remove toxins from their bodies, clay adds needed sodium to their diet, researchers now believe. A pregnant elephant in Kenya’s Tsavo Park was observed by


ecologist Holly Dublin, Ph.D., to travel miles to find a tree not normally eaten. Four days later, the elephant gave birth. Dublin discovered that Kenyan women make a drink from the same leaves and bark to induce labor. While studying Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) in


the Sabangau peat swamp forest in Central Kalimantan, Indone- sia, primatologist Helen Morrogh-Bernard, Ph.D., of the Univer- sity of Exeter, UK, observed an orangutan chew the leaves of a plant that were not part of its usual diet until it formed a lather. Te orangutan spit out the leaves and used the lather much like humans apply a topical pain reliever. While animals have been known to eat certain plants when


ill, hers may be the first sighting of an animal creating a salve. Nearby villagers grind the leaves to make a balm for sore muscles and inflammation. Morrogh-Bernard believes humans learned this topical application from apes and passed it down through the generations. In the Red Sea, bottlenose dolphins rub against bush-like


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Valerie Preston Dental 8320 Falls of Neuse Road, Raleigh


gorgonian corals covered by an outer layer of antimicrobial mucus that may protect them from infection, according to dolphin re- searcher Angela Ziltener, of the University of Zürich, Switzerland. “It’s amazing how much we’ve learned, but forgotten,” says


Susan Schmitz/Shutterstock.com


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