Mandrills are monkeys that are easily recognizable by their unusual appearance. It seems that they have collected all the colors of the rainbow: from red to blue and green. These monkeys are unique, as usually only fish or birds have this coloration.
Origin of the species and description
The mandrill (or “sphinx”) belongs to the monkey family and the mandrill genus. Previously, this genus was considered in the classification of baboons, but, in connection with recent studies, is now singled out separately. Representatives of the monkey family are also called “dog-headed” or narrow-nosed monkeys. All names speak for themselves. The structure of the skull of such monkeys resembles the head of a dog, and the nasal cartilage is extremely small.
The monkey family is very heterogeneous, divided into two subgroups:
- The first is omnivorous monkeys, which includes mandrills. These primates are able to digest any food, are also prone to hunting and are the most aggressive;
- the second is monkeys, predominantly herbivorous, although they can make a rare exception in favor of animal food. This includes langurs, proboscis, fat bodies.
Monkeys are a very common family. Due to the habitat and various features of life, they have different sizes and colors, slightly differ from each other morphologically. The family is distinguished on one common basis: the shape of the skull and the fit of the skeleton. The skull is always elongated, with sharp long fangs. Monkeys move exclusively on four legs, while the front legs are more developed than the back ones. The tail has no function – monkeys can't even move it.
Appearance and Features
Mandrills are fairly large monkeys with obvious sexual dimorphism. Males are brighter and larger than females, have a thicker coat and have collected in color many unusual colors that are not characteristic of mammals. The height of the male at the withers is about 80 cm, the weight can exceed 50 kg. Females are no more than 60 cm tall, and their weight is about 15 kg. All mandrills have a short tail – only 3-6 cm – this is the shortest tail of the entire marmoset family.
Fun fact: Some female mandrills don't have a tail at all.
The nose of the mandrill has a bright red hue. Cartilaginous relief grooves that have a blue or blue color pass along it. The hair on the front is orange, red or white, depending on the habitat of the mandrill. Male mandrills, like baboons, have a pronounced ischial callus – it dies out by at least 10 cm. The peculiarity is that it is painted in rich bright colors – from red to blue and purple. There is almost no hair on the back, so these colors are clearly visible.
Mandrills have thick hair, but they do not have an undercoat. These are thin numerous hairs of a brown or dark brown hue. The neck and belly of the monkeys are white, or just lighter shades.
Mandrills move exclusively on four legs, which are sufficiently developed for the monkey to be able to climb trees and run fast. Male mandrills have a thick mane framing their heads.
Both females and males have an elongated head with a distinct cartilaginous hump all over the nose. When expressing emotions of aggression or yawning, you can see giant white fangs that are located on both jaws. The eyes of the monkeys are small, under the massive brow ridges, which makes the mandrill look even more severe.
Where does the mandrill live?
Mandrill has long been considered the closest relative baboons, but evidence of interspecific crossbreeding has shown that this is not the case. Mandrills and baboons are rarely found in the wild due to their different habitats.
Mandrills inhabit the following areas of West Africa:
- South of Cameroon ;
- settle near the Congo River.
Unlike baboons, mandrills prefer tropical deciduous forests. These monkeys are more adapted to climbing trees. They often feed sitting on thick branches high above the ground. Although mainly mandrills lead a terrestrial lifestyle. It is rare to see small groups of mandrills or solitary individuals in the savannah. These are males expelled from their flocks and united in young groups. If the mandrills go out into the savannah, it means that they have not been able to recapture new territories in the rainforests. Such mandrills, as a rule, do not survive.
Even despite their imposing appearance and aggressiveness, they face active resistance from baboons, and also become victims of hunting by large predators. However, it is precisely thanks to the release of mandrills into the savannas that interspecific crossing with hamadryas and baboons occurs. They give offspring that are also able to reproduce. This practice is actively used in zoos.
Now you know where the mandrill monkeys live. Let's see what they eat.
What does a mandrill eat?
Mandrills are omnivorous and gluttonous.
The daily diet of animal food must include:
- protein insects – ants, termites, larvae, grasshoppers;
- snails and even poisonous scorpions can be eaten by mandrills;
- small rodents, frogs, birds;
- bird eggs and hatchlings.
Interesting fact: Mandrills are fine with eating the remains of plant food after other animals. For example, nimble monkeys climb to heights where mandrills cannot reach and accidentally drop bitten fruits or pieces of fruit, which the mandrills then eat up.
Mandrills are capable of hunting. If some equid-hoofed animal comes too close to their flock, the mandrill can rush to the attack and easily kill it with the help of huge fangs. Then such food will be enough for the whole flock. However, these monkeys are squeamish about carrion. They will not eat up animal food after various predators, but will prefer to eat plants.
For example, a mandrill's plant-based diet might include:
- various fruits;
- green leaves;
- seeds and roots;
- soft bark, thin branches, stems of plants.
Plant foods make up over 90 percent of the mandrill's diet. They easily cope with the hard shell of nuts, willingly peel off the peel on the fruits – not only fangs, but also developed fingers help them in this. In captivity, dried fruits, cottage cheese, various cereals, boiled meat, eggs and vegetables are added to the diet of these primates.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Like baboons, mandrills live in large families of up to 30, less often – 50 individuals. Everyone in the pack is related. There are always more females in the flock than males, and a significant part of the females are always with small cubs. The pack is led by the alpha male, who controls the observance of a clear hierarchy. These monkeys are purely territorial animals and do not accept nomadism. They move to another place only in conditions of a serious lack of food, water or a dangerous threat to life.
The fact is that in the wild, each pack has a territory of about 50 square kilometers, and violation of borders can lead to bloody skirmishes with other packs. On the other hand, if there is extremely much food, then families can unite, forming flocks of up to two hundred heads. When the food dries up, the flock again breaks up into families and disperses to their territories.
Baboons are diurnal. In the morning, adults go in search of food: they carefully examine the foliage, turn over stones, and climb low tree branches. After breakfast, they gather in small groups for grooming, an important ritual for monkeys that demonstrates the hierarchical relationship in the pack.
Mandrill cubs spend most of their time playing games, during which they learn the nuances of survival. Low-ranking males may periodically conflict with each other, but no one encroaches on the leader's right to be superior. The leader must choose places for feeding and regulate intra-family conflicts. Mandrills have a developed sound system based on body movements and sounds, but the leader prefers to use brute force. Some young males may confront the leader in an attempt to seize power. This only succeeds if the male is already old and unable to fully fight back.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Mandrills have a mating season that falls between July and October. This is a period of drought when mandrills cannot actively feed and breed. The dominant male mates with all females that are childless and in reproductive age. Females are unable to mate with another male. The male has several alpha females, which he covers first. These females regulate the relationship between other females in the flock and help everyone look after the cubs.
An interesting fact: You can tell if a female is ready for mating by the intensity of the color of her ischial callus – the redder it is, the more the female is ready for the birth of the cub.
The gestation period lasts eight months, during which the female goes about her business without discomfort. Childbirth is quick, but older females help younger ones by providing emotional support. The female gives birth to one, less often two cubs. The female immediately puts the newborn primate to her breast, feeding him with fat milk. For the first three weeks, the cub travels by clinging to the mother's belly. As soon as he learns to eat plant foods, the cub will migrate to his mother's back.
Children are brought up by the whole team. Females can take other people's cubs to feed – this is especially important if some female with a small cub dies. Monkeys become completely independent only by the third year of life, but even then attachment to the mother remains. Adults often come to their mothers for the night and sleep next to them. Grown up females become the “wives” of their father-leader, and grown males leave the family, creating their own groups. Sometimes some females may follow them. In this situation, the alpha male will try to fight off the female, bringing her back by force. But often, females can show similar counter-aggression, as a result of which the leader calmly lets them go after the young male.
Mandrill's natural enemies
Mandrills live in dense, humid forests, where they are perhaps the largest predators. Their imposing appearance, aggressiveness, noisiness and long fangs make them dangerous opponents.
There are not many predators they face:
- leopards. It is the most dangerous predator for mandrills. He can ambush the monkeys right on the tree. The leopard quickly kills the primate by biting its neck and not allowing it to resist. After the kill, he drags the monkey up a tree, where he eats it. If a leopard is seen in an ambush, the monkeys make noise and scatter through the trees. The leader, in turn, must rush at the leopard, protecting his family. Often this ends in the death of the leader, but leopards never die from mandrills, in case of extreme danger they flee;
- pythons. Large snakes willingly feast on growing mandrills. They are difficult to notice in an ambush among the foliage. Especially large snakes can strangle even an adult female by swallowing it whole. Monkeys give an active rebuff to pythons: if a snake grabs a cub, the mother will beat her and tear her with her hands to save her child;
- some large birds. They are the least likely to attack mandrills, since mandrills are predominantly terrestrial, and birds of prey prefer to hunt by grabbing monkeys from tree branches. However, baby mandrills that climb too high out of curiosity are at risk.
Population and Species Status
Mandrill is included in the Red Book under the status of endangered. Although the monkey population is huge, it has declined by forty percent in the last thirty years. Mandrills, like baboons, are pests. They can settle near villages, where they begin to steal small cattle. Also, rummaging through the garbage, mandrills become carriers of dangerous diseases. Due to their aggressiveness and large size, collisions between people and mandrills sometimes ended in serious injury to a person or even death. All this led to the fact that people exterminated the mandrills.
Interesting fact: The largest flock lives in the Gabon National Park – it has about one and a half thousand mandrills. They have united on a permanent basis and have not broken up for several years.
Massive deforestation destroys the natural habitat of monkeys. Because of this, cubs and young individuals die. Families are forced to switch to a nomadic lifestyle, looking for a new food base, as deforestation leads to the reduction of many plant and animal species that mandrills feed on. Mandrill meat is considered a delicacy among the people of Gabon. This did not seriously affect the population, but did contribute to the disappearance of the mandrills.
Biologists believe that the mandrill population will remain stable with proper security measures. The fact is that these monkeys live perfectly in captivity – first of all, in zoos. They readily breed and quickly get used to people.
Even animals born in a zoo in close contact with people easily adapt to a wild lifestyle. Families of mandrills bred in zoos are released into the wild and successfully reduced into the wild. At the same time, they maintain a calm attitude towards people, not showing aggression towards the locals.
African National Parks play an important role in preserving the population. Hunting is prohibited on their territory, and animals live in isolation from people, but under the supervision of scientists. This allows you to control the population and identify the features of the life of animals, which will further help in the conservation of the species.
Mandrill is a large and unusual monkey. With their natural aggressiveness, in captivity, they quickly get used to people. While their population is under threat of extinction, but scientists are making great efforts to ensure that these unique animals do not disappear.