Today Ferrebeekeeper travels again to the arid scrubland of the Sahal, on the hunt for one of the most ridiculously named inhabitants of all of the earth. Well, actually I should clarify that this creature’s common English name is ridiculous. Its proper Latin name sounds at least fairly proper–Steatomys cuppedius. Steatomys cuppedius is a rodent which lives in the semi-tropical scrubland of Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal. The little mouse seems to live a life not unlike that of other scrubland mice, but for some reason colonial taxonomists saddled it with the name “dainty fat mouse.”
Perhaps (or maybe I should say “hopefully”) your sense of humor is different from mine, but every time I read that phrase I burst out laughing. I keep imagining a fussy refined mouse sitting amidst chintz and porcelain and scarfing down cucumber sandwiches till it becomes morbidly obese. It could be the subject of a children’s book, except I don’t think children read about things like that (at least not since the death of Roald Dahl).
Anyway, back in the real world, the dainty fat mouse (snicker) is apparently not common—but it lives in inaccessible and inhospitable places and it is not endangered. Perhaps it will have the last laugh. It is also photo-shy. I scoured the internet but I could not find a single photo of Steatomys cuppedius, so, during lunchtime, I broke out my colored pencils and drew my own picture. This illustration may not be zoologically accurate, but it certainly conveys a lot of anxious personality (and maybe speaks to the zeitgeist beyond small rodents of the Sahal). I also drew one of the magnificent alien mud mosques of Timbuktu in the background to give the dainty fat mouse a sense of place!