Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx)

Spanish: Mandril
GenusMandrillus (1)
SizeHeight: up to 80 cm (2)
Weight11 to 36 kg (3)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU A2cd) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (4).

The mandrill is not only the largest monkey in the world, but it is also one of the most distinctive (3). It has an extremely striking face, with a red stripe down the nose and blue flanges framing it (5). The male has a much more colourful face than females and juveniles, with more prominent hair growth around the nostrils and huge canine teeth, measuring up to 6.5 cm long, which he exposes to threaten any rivals or predators (5). This amazing monkey has red fur patches above the eyes and a yellow mane-like beard, while the rest of its body is covered with thick olive green fur. Its underparts are grey, tinged with yellow, and its body is stocky, with a short tail and a brilliantly blue to purple coloured rump (6). Males are much larger than females, and more boldly coloured. With this spectacular appearance, the male mandrill declares its identity to other animals, as well as announcing his sex and virility to females (5).

This species is found in Africa; in south-western Cameroon, western Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and south western Congo (2).

This striking primate inhabits rainforests and sub-tropical forests, from flat plateaus to mountainous terrain (6).

Mandrills live in mixed groups of up to 40, which come together to form troops of more than 600 individuals. There is a strict hierarchy amongst the group: a dominant male, huge and vividly coloured, heads each group, mating with fertile females and fathering almost all of the infants (6). A troop moves over a range of up to 50 km², scent-marking the territory and defending it against rivals. Groups are extremely noisy, with individuals communicating with deep grunts and high pitched crowing as they feed; when it is time to move on the alpha male emits a two-phase grunt. Mandrills spend most of their day foraging for fruits and seeds, eggs and small animals, and when night falls they retire to the trees for safety (5). When the females are receptive their rumps swell and become a more intense red, signaling her reproductive status as ‘in oestrus’. Females give birth to one offspring every 18 months or so. The infant clings to her belly, and when it is heavier rides on her back (5).

Mandrill populations have suffered drastic declines due to hunting for their meat. Because they travel in large troops and are easily located by their constant grunting and screaming, entire populations are quickly decimated. Hunting has become lucrative and with the use of dogs, high-powered rifles, spotlights, deep-freezers and trucks it is an even greater threat today than ever before. As human settlements expand, the mandrills are losing their habitats to logging and clearing for agriculture (2).

International trade is prohibited by the mandrill’s listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (4). However, even if international trade is controlled, there are still substantial threats to the mandrill. Due to severely limited funds for conservation in West Africa, and the difficulties in monitoring these animals in forests, this species is poorly protected if at all. Extinction in the wild is sadly therefore a serious threat for this most spectacular primate (2).

Authenticated (04/02/05) by Dr Anna Feistner, Director, Centre ValBio (

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)