The mandrill is a distinct monkey living in Central Africa. They are one of the more easily recognizable monkeys due to the bright colors on the males’ faces. The males have a red nose with a red stripe running from just below the eyes to the nose.

On each side of this stripe, they have areas of pale grayish-blue skin. The females have these red and blue markings as well, but they are not as big and vibrant as they are on the males. Both males and females also have a purplish rear and a golden beard, but these are both much more recognizable on the males.

These animals have long canine teeth which can be used for self defense. Surprisingly, baring their teeth is usually a friendly gesture towards other mandrills.

Mandrills are in the family of primates known as the Old-world monkeys, since they all live in the Eastern Hemisphere. This family, and especially mandrills, seem to be half way between typical monkeys and apes, such as gorillas. Rafiki, the king’s advisor in The Lion King is commonly referred to as a babon, even though his markings identify him as a mandrill.


Since they are considered monkeys, male mandrills are the largest monkeys in the world. The males, from nose to the base of their tail, can be between 24 and 30 inches (61-76 cm) long. The tail is very short, only about 2.5 inches (6.3 cm) long. I don’t have any measurements for the females, but they are significantly smaller than the males.

The females can weigh between 25 and 35 pounds (11-16 kg), and the males are much heavier. They normally weight from 50 to 75 pounds (22.6-34 kg), while the largest ones can weigh almost 120 pounds (54 kg)!

Diet and feeding

Mandrills are omnivores, but their favorite foods are fruits. They will forage for these fruits in the trees, but unlike most monkeys, they will stay pretty close to the ground. Mandrills usually forage at heights less than 15 feet (4.6 m). The males are heavy enough that foraging in the trees can be dangerous for them. They spend almost all of their time on the ground.

In addition to fruit, these monkeys will eat a wide variet of other foods. These include fungi, buds, flowers, roots, seeds, insects, nuts, and small vertebrates. Mandrills have pouches in their cheeks that allow them to store food for later.

Habitat and range

As you can see in the map below, Mandrills inhabit only a small area in West-Central Africa. They live in the rainforests and sub-tropical forests in this area, sometimes in flat areas and sometimes in the mountains. Even though they spend most of their time on the ground, trees are important as that is where they find shelter during the night.

Status and threats

Mandrills are classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Redlist. One of the biggest threats to these monkeys is hunting for their meat. They travel in large groups of about 20-40 mandrills. Sometimes these groups will combine to form groups as large as 600! This, along with their tendency to grunt and scream, makes them easy to find.

When they are found, often the entire group will be killed, which makes their numbers decrease even more. Another threat these monkeys face is deforestation.

There aren’t any known natural predators to this animal, mostly because of how large they are. They almost definitely have predators, though, and these may include leopards and pythons.

Reproduction and young

Unlike most animals, mandrills do not breed every year. Instead, they normally breed about every other year, depending on how much food is available. Mating occurs between July and October, and the dominant male in each group will mate with the females in his group. The gestation period lasts about 6 months, and the young are born between December and April.

In the wild, each female gives birth to just one young, twins have only been observed in captivity. The infants have pink skin with black fur for the first two months of their lives. During this time, they will ride around holding onto their mother’s belly. Once they get large enough, they will move to ride on her back.

As they mature, the young turn into a grown color and their face and rear start to change to the bright blue and red that they are in the adults. Almost all of the females in the group will help take care of the young, even if they don’t have young themselves. Mandrills have been known to live more than 46 years.



Photo credits:

  • Mandrill – Wikipedia user: ((brian))
  • Mandrill range – Chermundy
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