Mandril Eating at the LA Zoo Photo Credit Jamie Pham

Scientific Name: Mandrillus sphinx

The largest monkey species, mandrills look like baboons but DNA studies show they are more closely related to mangabeys.

Social Life

Mandrills travel in multi-male and multi-female groups called troops, which range from 20 animals to, on occasion, more than 200. The leader of the troop is a single dominant male, usually the monkey with the brightest and boldest colors.

Although the character Rafiki from The Lion King is often referred to as a baboon, the colors on his face indicate that he is actually a mandrill.

Mandrills are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Mandrills live in the remaining primary and secondary rainforests of western Africa in Cameroon, Gabon and southwestern Congo. They are both terrestrial, spending time on the ground, and arboreal, spending time in the trees where they sleep every night.

They are omnivores, eating a variety of foods, with fruits and seeds making up over 90 percent of their diet. They also eat bark, leaves, palm nuts, ants, termites, dung beetles, spiders, tortoises, duikers (small antelopes), birds, mice, frogs, crabs, and bird eggs. They often raid farmers’ crops and plantations.

Mandrills are the largest monkeys and one of the most colorful. Both sexes have shaggy brown hair and short, stubby tails. The males have red, white, and blue faces and similarly colored rear ends and genitals. The females, half the size of the males, have paler faces and sexual swellings around their genitalia that turn pink and shiny when they are in estrous and ready to breed. This is an advertising system to attract the many males in the group to mate with them. They have scent glands on their chests for scent marking, one of the few Old World monkeys to scent-mark.

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