Bio Facts: Mandrill
Western and Central Africa- Gabon, southwestern Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and southwestern Congo
Tropical rain forest floor
Large canine teeth (in males these may be over 2 inches long) and a pronounced muzzle characterize these primates. Faces are black with red and blue markings, along with yellowish-orange beards. Rear is blue to reddish-purple. Females weigh 24 to 30 lbs., and males reach weights of up to 110 lbs. The male’s head and body length averages approximately 27.5 inches; tails average 3 to 5 inches long. Females are much smaller than males.
On average, 20 to 30 years in the wild; over 40 years in captivity
In the wild, they eat plants, fruit, nuts, mushrooms and small animals. In the Zoo, they are fed monkey chow, apples, oranges, grapes, kiwi, celery, cucumber, romaine lettuce, and bananas.
USFWS – Endangered, CITES I, IUCN – Lower Risk, Near Threatened, AZA – SSP
Mandrills spend most of their time on the ground of the rainforest. When threatened, they go up into the trees. Primary predators are humans and leopards.
The following are different behaviors you may observe in the mandrill exhibit:
Aggressive: raised eyebrows showing the whites of the eyelids, ground slapping, open mouth threat, head bobbing, yawning showing exposing canines.
Passive: repeated glances sideways, cowering or crouching, and grimacing.
Mounting: dominant animal mounts a subordinate animal (not a sexual behavior).
Presenting: subordinate animal presents rump to a dominant animal.
Displacement: subordinate animals give way to dominant animals especially at feeding time.
A female’s estrous cycle lasts approximately 33 days. A sexual swelling is prominent but not overtly obvious. The gestation period is 167-176 days, with only one infant born. Young are nursed for 6-12 months. Newborns initially ride their mothers while clinging to the belly. After the first few weeks, offspring will be strong enough to ride on their mothers’ backs. A family group consists of a dominant male, several females, and their offspring.
Mandrill society is a patriarchal society revolving around the dominant male. Young are tolerated until a certain age at which time the dominant male begins his lessons on proper mandrill behavior.
Females also have a hierarchy that is very evident at feeding time. At an abundant feeding site, subordinant animals will stuff their cheek pouches with food and retire to a place of safety on the outskirts of the group to eat in a peacefully leisurely manner. Dominant animals are left to feast at their leisure.
The mother-daughter bond lasts into adulthood. Mother-son bonds last until the son reaches sexual maturity at which time they leave or are driven out of the family group. Juvenile males will then either enter another group or become solitary. Juveniles within the family group also form bonds with their siblings.
Sometimes groups may join. Grooming functions to remove parasites, dead skin and reduce tension.
Limbs are strong and powerful. The mandrill’s opposable thumb allows them to grasp tree branches and other objects.
When dominant animals exert their rank, tensions within the group escalate. This is particularly true at feeding sites. Cheek pouches enable subordinant animals to collect and carry food quickly out of the way of dominant individuals. This adaptation helps subordinate animals avoid confrontations with stranger group members while providing ample storage areas to secure food.
Colors on a male’s face become more prominent when threatening lower-ranking members of the group. When mandrills are excited, the blue color on their rear end gets brighter, chest turns blue, and reddish specks may appear on the ankles and wrists. The brilliantly colored posterior of the male acts as a beacon as he leads his group single file through the dense undergrowth of the rain forest.
Little is known about the Mandrill’s way of life deep in the recesses of the rain forest.
Mandrills are often killed because they destroy crops. Forests are also being cleared for a variety of reasons, and this habitat destruction is detrimental. In some areas, they are even used as a food source.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
It is unclear just when the first mandrills arrived at the Jacksonville Zoological Gardens. Records document the birth of one in 1945, so we know they must have arrived sometime before. Mandrills have remained in the collection ever since.