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Wildlife Wednesdays: Real-life Rafiki – a Baby Mandrill – Born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Matt Hohne

by , Animal Operations Director, Disney’s Animal Programs

Mandrill Kelley and her Baby at Disney's Animal Kingdom (Photo by Gene Duncan)

After six and a half months of waiting, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is welcoming a “colorful” addition to its animal family. A male baby mandrill was born May 30 to first-time mother Kelley and is the third born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Mom and baby are doing very well.

Native to Africa, mandrills are among the largest species of monkey in the world and are considered endangered. They’re known for their bright coloration, furry head crests, manes and beards. Adults also have thick purple and blue ridges along their noses, red lips and golden beards. Fans of Disney’s animated movie “The Lion King” might recall Rafiki, who was not only a colorful character, but a mandrill as well.

So far, our primate team members are encouraged by the bonding between mother and infant. The baby spends most of his day nursing and sleeping, and the primate team has been closely observing Kelley and her baby to ensure that all continues to go well.

Barb Weber, one of our primate zoological managers, reports that the new mom is very relaxed but protective. The primate team is pleased that young female mandrill Scarlett has taken a keen interest in the newborn, noting that this is a great experience for her because she is learning from the baby’s mom how to be a good mom herself.

Mandrill Kelley and her Baby at Disney's Animal Kingdom (Photo by Gene Duncan)

The baby and mom are starting to make short forays into their habitat on the Kilimanjaro Safaris, joining other members of the mandrill group. In these photos, taken by Gene Duncan, baby and mom are in their backstage home.

With the new baby, the number of mandrills that make their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom has grown to 12. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is part of a breeding program coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums that is focused on sustaining the mandrill population. For more information on Disney conservation efforts, visit

Fun Facts:

  • Disney’s animal care experts do not separate mandrill moms from their babies to weigh them if all is going well after birth. Therefore, they don’t know exactly how much the baby weighs. Their guess: 2 pounds or less.
  • Preparations for motherhood began long before the baby mandrill was born. For example, primate keepers train future moms to pick up objects to simulate picking up their baby after it is born.
  • Adult female mandrills weigh an average of 30 pounds. Adult males are larger and average 60-100 pounds.


  • Mr. Duncan got an incredible portrait of Mom and baby – thanks for sharing it!

  • This is so exciting. Kelley was born and raised at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, NY. We are all thrilled to see that she’s a mom.

  • This is excellent news. I also didn’t know they had 12 Mandrills. Do they take turns being on exhibit?

  • From my 7 year old daughter: I think the baby is very, very cute. I am glad he is doing well. Congratulations and good luck to the mommy for raising her baby! I am glad Disney is helping these endangered creatures.

  • My God, they’re so gorgeous! Congratulations to mother mandrill and to this beautiful iniciative from Disney’s Animal Kingdom!

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