The magnificent mandrill is the world's largest monkey with a characteristic blue or red face and a bright rump. Meanwhile, this primate is probably the most colorful mammal around the globe. When excited, its color pattern becomes even brighter. The long canines of this animal serve as a mean of self-defense. However, they may also display friendliness to conspecifics by exposing their teeth. Mandrills are endemic and native exclusively to rainforests of equatorial Africa.
The natural range of this species stretches throughout equatorial Africa, including south-western Cameroon, western Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and south-western Congo. Within this territory, mandrills primarily prefer living in rainforests, thick bush as well as montane and thick secondary forests.
Habits and lifestyle
Mandrills are very social animals, forming mixed groups of up to 40 individuals that, in turn, gather into large troops of over 600 animals. Individuals in these groups live in a well-defined social hierarchy. Each unit is led by the large and colorful dominant male, who mates with receptive females and fathers nearly all young in the group. A single troop can occupy a territory of up to 50 km². Since mandrills are territorial animals, the home range of each troop is scent-marked and fiercely defended against outsiders. Group members generally associate with each other through deep grunts, making a loud noise. They are known to emit high-pitched crows when feeding. Additionally, the dominant males give out a two-phase grunting call when the group has to move on. Mandrills are diurnal animals, spending most of their daytime hours looking for food and finding shelter in trees by night. Mandrills also spend a considerable amount of their active time grooming, during which they emit smacking noises, resembling those given during mating. When mandrills are in the playful mood and want to be groomed, they announce it by shaking their head and shoulders.
troop, barrel, cartload, tribe, wilderness
Diet and nutrition
Being omnivorous animals, mandrills consume food of both plant and animal origin. They eat various fruits, seeds, fungi and roots, supplementing this diet with insects, snails, worms, frogs, lizards as well as occasional snakes and small vertebrates.
Mandrills have a polygynous mating system, where the dominant male controls and mates with a group of females called a harem. Mandrills breed whenever there is sufficient food supply, usually from July to October once every 2 years. Gestation period lasts for 6 months. Females generally give birth to one infant in December-April. Some captive females of this species have been known to yield twins. The newborn infant is fed, cared and protected by not only its mother but also other females of the group such as aunts, sisters and cousins. Mandrills are weaned within 6 - 12 months old, after which females continue living with their natal group, whereas, ales have to disperse at 6 years old, living along the boundary of the group. The age of reproductive maturity is 4 - 8 years old in females and 9 years old in males.
These primates are presently threatened by destruction of their natural habitat due to logging, which opens way to remote habitat of mandrills, leading to another serious threat - hunting. Bush meat is nowadays in great demand, meeting the needs of growing populations in Africa as well as being exported to European market. As a result, mandrills heavily suffer from large-scale hunting.
No estimate of population size is available for mandrills. Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List.
Due to their diet, mandrills may play some role in seed dispersal. To the extent that they serve as predators or as prey, they may have some effect on local food webs.
Fun facts for kids
- The common name of this species literally means “man ape”.
- The color pattern of mandrill is directly related to the social behavior of the animal. Thus, when the primate is excited, its overall coloration becomes considerably brighter: it displays red spots on its wrists and ankles and a blue chest. Additionally, the blue colored pad on its buttocks becomes more vivid.
- This animal will fiercely slap the ground when angry. Another typical behavior is staring at someone while scratching its forearm or thigh.
- Mandrill is otherwise called the 'forest baboon'.
- One of the main characters in Disney's "The Lion King", the baboon called Rafiki, is actually a mandrill with a characteristic colorful face.
- Male mandrills are the largest living monkeys in the world.
- Each mandrill may be identified by its own unique fingerprints.
- The largest recorded group of these animals was observed in found in Lopé National Park (Gabon). It contained as many as 1300 animals, thus being the largest known non-human primate group.
- Mandrills are agile both in trees and on the ground. When moving terrestrially, they walk on knuckles on their forelimbs. When in trees, these primates travel by taking leaps to the sides.
- The forward pointing eyes provide mandrills with binocular vision.