Equatorial region of western Africa


Rain forest

Big and brilliant

Mandrills are the largest and most colorful of the Old World monkeys. They are related to baboons and even more so to drills. Their furry head crest, mane, and beard are quite impressive. But what grabs your attention is their bright coloration. They have thick ridges along the nose that are purple and blue, red lips and nose, and a golden beard. It almost looks like they’re not real!

The monkey behind the mask

An adult male mandrill that has the brightest and most distinctive colors on his face seems to be most attractive to females. But that's not all—those bright colors show up again on the mandrill’s rear end! Why? Well, those colors impress the ladies. And, they help mandrills to follow each other in thick forests. Adult females have duller colors and longer muzzles. They are also much smaller, about half the size of the adult males.

Mandrills are also known as forest baboons.
The character Rafiki in Disney's "The Lion King" is referred to as a baboon. But take a closer look, and you'll see he has the colorful face of a mandrill.
The male mandrill is the largest living monkey.

The San Diego Zoo's first mandrills, Peter and Suzy, arrived in 1923. Although they never reproduced, Peter lived to a ripe old age of 27 or 28 (we did not have his birth year). More mandrills arrived in 1938, and soon our mandrill breeding program was begun, with 34 mandrills born at the Zoo and Safari Park over the years.

Today, the Zoo is home to four mandrills living along the Monkey Trail in Lost Forest. The small horde is led by alpha male Jasper and includes adult females Tami and Kesi and younger male JJ. They share an exhibit with Schmidt’s spot-nosed monkeys and Wolf’s monkeys.

Mandrills are listed as a vulnerable species. Conservation organizations are working to protect mandrill habitat from illegal logging and the bushmeat trade. (Bushmeat is the hunting of wildlife species for food and trade). This trade has become lucrative, and, as human populations increase, it is a greater threat today than ever before. And, as human settlements expand, mandrills are losing their habitat to logging and clearing of forests for agricultural use.

You can help us bring primates back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.