Creepy little monkey.
Simba about Rafiki

Mandrills (inaccurately called "baboons" in The Lion King films and franchise) are creatures that appear in The Lion King universe. In the films, they are incorrectly referred to as baboons.[1] They are closely related to baboons, but are a part of a completely different genus, Mandrillus.

In the Real World

No other member in the whole class of mammals is colored in so extraordinary a manner as the adult male mandrills.
Charles Darwin

An adult male

Mandrills are native to southern Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo. They are easily recognized by their olive-colored fur and colorful faces and rumps (though females have duller colors). They are mainly found in tropical rain forests and occasionally woodlands. They are omnivores, but prefer plants over meat since it is easier to access. Mandrills mostly eat invertebrates, such as ants, beetles, termites, crickets, spiders, snails, and scorpions. They will also eat eggs, and occasionally vertebrates, such as birds, tortoises, frogs, porcupines, rats, and shrews.

Like lions, mandrills are social creatures and live in large groups (one is recorded to have had over one-thousand individuals). These groups are called "hordes" and are led by one dominant male. Their mating season takes place from June to October. They breed every two years. Because of this rapid rate in birth, mandrills have a long life span; they can survive up to thirty-one years in captivity.

Males weigh fifty to eighty pounds (some growing to be over one-hundred) and females are usually half that weight, around twenty to twenty-four pounds. The average male is eighty-one to ninety centimeters long (thirty-two to thirty-six inches) and the female is usually fifty-six to sixty-six centimeters long (twenty-two to twenty-six inches), with the tail adding another five to eight centimeters (two to three inches). Overall, the mandrill is the world's largest species of monkey.

In The Lion King

It means you're a baboon....and I'm not.
―Rafiki incorrectly refers to "himself" as a baboon

A male mandrill, as portrayed in The Lion King

Mandrills are portrayed very accurately in the film, aside from the fact that they have tails (something that was commented upon by Rafiki's animator, James Baxter, who called Rafiki "mutated").

In the beginning of the film, Rafiki, the most prominent mandrill, is revealed to be the chief adviser and close friend of the lion king, Mufasa. He is given the task of holding the newborn lion prince, Simba, before the rest of the Pride Lands, in order for the Pridelanders to bow before their future king. He anoints the cub and performs the initial rites of passage before holding him up before the gathered animals. Later on in the film, the audience is given a view of Rafiki's Tree, the home of Rafiki. The trunk is covered with cave art, and hollowed-out skins of fruit are seen hanging from the tree branches. This furthers the fact that Rafiki is considered shaman of the Pride Lands.

Later, after Scar has usurped the throne and Simba is pronounced dead, Rafiki catches Simba's scent on the breeze. He travels a long distance from the Pride Lands until he reaches the jungle where Simba has been living all these years. Through wisdom and a bit of craziness, Rafiki further convinces Simba to return to Pride Rock and claim his kingdom. At the film's climax, Rafiki joins in the giant battle, using his stick to defeat the hyenas. At the very end of the film, he holds up Simba and Nala's newborn cub before the Pride Lands, continuing the tradition of the great circle of life.

The Lion King: Six New Adventures

A Tale of Two Brothers

Ahadi: And you, wise Rafiki, shall be my teacher.
Rafiki: Your Majesty, I cannot stay-
Ahadi: Rafiki, I want to make the Pride Lands a place where all animals can thrive. This will be possible if we cooperate. Will you help us achieve that goal?
Rafiki: Yes, I will! As long as I can go off on my quests from time to time. There is so much I wish to learn.
Ahadi appoints Rafiki as chief adviser and teacher of the Pride Lands

In A Tale of Two Brothers, Rafiki is appointed royal adviser and teacher by Ahadi.

Follow the Leader

Haraka: It's about the baboons!
Rafiki: Baboons! Where?
Haraka: I knew you'd ask that. Um, let me think. Was it hyenas? No. Um...locusts? No, that was hyenas and locusts. Or was it locusts and lizards?
Rafiki: Haraka, think! This is important.
Haraka: All I can say for sure is that the baboons in Grass Walls are in deep trouble. Gotta go. Gotta go.
Haraka and Rafiki

More is revealed about Rafiki's homeland, Grass Walls, in this book. After hearing news that his home is in danger, Rafiki sets out with Simba to save his kin. Upon reaching Grass Walls, he finds it barren and in horrible condition. He finds out from his friends and cousins that Jelani, the leader of the baboon troop, is slacking off in his job. With the help of Simba, Rafiki gains control of the troop and leads them to a new home. After they reach a lush jungle, their new home, Jelani admits his mistakes and regains leadership over the troop.

Important Mandrills

  • Rafiki- appointed teacher and adviser of the lion king
  • Jelani- leader of Rafiki's old baboon troop
  • Khalfani- previous leader of Rafiki's baboon troop
  • Biba- Rafiki's distant cousin
  • Nefu- Rafiki's nephew
  • Makini


  • Rafiki never seems to age throughout the Lion King Franchise. According to 6NA, he is already elderly, but remains spry and active even as princess Kiara comes into young adulthood. Whether or not lions age the same as normal lions in the Lion King universe is unknown (Scar says he's been denied the throne for decades, so at least 20 years), but if they do, the Mandrill's lifespan is definitely warped out of proportion or Rafiki isn't as old as he appears, as Mandrills -- young and old -- do have white manes which denotes age in humans.

Gallery of Real Mandrills

Gallery of Mandrills in the Films and Books