split image of Nikki the mandrill

A 37-year-old female mandrill named Nikki has been verified as the oldest in the world.

Born on 13 January 1987 at Oregon Zoo, Nikki has lived at Phoenix Zoo in Arizona, USA, for the past six years.

According to the zoo, the median life expectancy of a mandrill is 18.3 years. Nikki has lived over twice that long to become the world’s oldest living mandrill in captivity.

In celebration of her 37th birthday, the windows of her habitat were painted and she was given a behavioural enrichment box (an interactive device designed to engage her senses) containing primate biscuits with blueberries and blackberries.

Nikki the mandrill on all fours

Nikki used to live with her half-sister, Victoria, who was also long-lived; she passed away aged 35 in April 2022. The pair had retired to Arizona from a cooler, wetter climate.

“I think it helps not having harsh winters, as the cold is hard on the joints,” said Nikki’s caretaker.

“Her mandrill companions are also very laid back, and she has adapted a good routine.”

Nikki lives with two other mandrills: a male named Jax, who arrived at Phoenix Zoo a year after her, and a younger female named Kesi. Nikki has never had any children.

Nikki the mandrill

Her daily diet consists of fruit, vegetables and primate biscuits.

She is fed breakfast in the morning before moving outside, where she spends her day foraging, eating, engaging with behavioural enrichment objects, and roaming around the habitat.

At the end of the day, she goes back inside where there is more behavioural enrichment and food. After eating, she climbs up on to her high shelf where she sleeps every night.

Nikki the mandrill eating

Describing Nikki’s personality, her caretaker said: “She is cautious and endearing. She loves food and foraging in mulch.

“She is closely monitored by veterinary and keeper staff, and we make accommodations to her habitat to help with normal age-related declines.”

Native to equatorial Africa, mandrills are the world's largest monkey species. Average adult males measure 61-76 cm in length (excluding the tail) and weigh 25 kg (55 lb), though specimens weighing over double that have been logged.

Nikki the mandrill sitting

They are noted for their colourful faces and rumps, as well as their yellow-orange beards.

The species was popularized by Disney’s 1994 animated film The Lion King, in which a mandrill named Rafiki served as the kingdom’s elderly shaman. In reality, a male mandrill would not enjoy such longevity.

The oldest-known documented mandrill was a female born in June 1964 at Baltimore Zoo in Maryland. In 1992 she was transferred to Dallas Zoo in Texas and was last confirmed alive in July 2004, aged 40.

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