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The ferocious appearance of the mandrill is misleading. By nature it is quit peaceable and social. The brilliant coloring of the male’s face distinguishes it from the plainer female. The adult male displays vivid blue, red and purple coloration on his face and rump. The coloration helps mandrills to identify one another when they are foraging. The male also has long, powerful canine teeth. Female and young mandrills are much less colorful than the adult male, their faces are grayish black and lack any bright shades of color. Females are half the size and weight of the males.

Active by day in the dense rainforests of western and central Africa, the mandrill is one of the largest of the ground dwelling baboons. Like other species of baboon, mandrills are very sociable animals, living in groups that may number from 15 to 200 members. Each group contains at least one adult male, five or more adult females, and their young. Some males live alone, which indicated the likelihood of rivalry between adult males for the leadership of the group. Mandrills spend most of the day foraging in the forest for food. At intervals during the day, the group will rest. Adults groom each other while the young ones play.

Mandrills eat fruits, leaves, roots, seeds, insects, eggs, and small animals. Led by the adult males, they begin foraging for food after daybreak. Fruit trees are a source of food for the mandrill. Large groups of mandrills, together with other species of monkey, will converge on the trees and feed on the fruit. The mandrill is adept at foraging for food because its fingers work in a coordinated fashion. The mandrill can dig, sort, prepare food, and transfer it to its mouth.

The dominant male has access to all the females in his harem, and he is most likely to father any offspring. He mates randomly with the females when they are in estrus. During estrus, the female’s sex organs become swollen, indicating that she is ready for mating. A single young is born seven to eight months later. It suckles the mother’s milk and travels everywhere with her, clinging tightly to her chest. Gradually, the young mandrill will begin to explore its surroundings. Female mandrills usually remain in the group into which they were born, but as the young males reach maturity, they most often must leave the group.

The mandrill is now an endangered species. Decline is caused by habitat loss, excessive hunting for food, and sale to zoos. There is a great need for forest reserves to be established for its protection.