Zoo’s Clues

Help Detective Clue Spotter the Otter crack the case with monthly mysteries geared toward 6 to 12-year-olds.

Available daily.
Staffed Saturday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Free
Ideal for ages 6 to 12

  • Only staffed on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (weather dependent) or available on a self-guided basis anytime.
  • Prizes can only be picked up when staffed or by contacting cluespotter@zooatlanta.org.
  • Supplies are available at Detective Headquarters for self-guided spotters.

Greetings Detectives,

My name is Detective Clue Spotter the Otter, and I need YOUR help solving monthly mysteries! Study the evidence, engage in the suspense, observe the clues, and use your detective skills to unravel the mystery, all while learning about our natural world.

Are you ready to get started? Zoo’s Clues is a self-guided activity! All of the confidential materials you need are available right here, or in the brown mailbox at our Detective Headquarters, located across from the elephant habitat.

Zoo’s Clues Online

Printable Clue Sheet (PDF)

At the end of the month, we’ll post the case debrief below so you can learn even more information about the mysteries we’ve solved together.

Your pal,
Clue Spotter the Otter

Skills you need to be a good Zoo detective

  • The ability to observe. You should take a good look at the clues provided. Look at clues from several angles, and make a note of any details on or about the clue. What is the clue or where did it come from? How does is fit with your knowledge and with the other clues provided? Every part of the clue will help you get one step closer to cracking the case.
  • Good memory. You should try to remember all clues provided and details of each to piece together an answer. Cross check each clue and then think how that might fit with your knowledge of animals.
  • Awareness of animal behavior, physical characteristics, and abilities is important. To solve some of our mysteries, you are going to need to know a little bit about animals. What do animals look like and what are their characteristics? Where do they live, what do they eat, (and what does their poop look like!), what are some of their behaviors, and what might be an animal’s motive for committing the crime?
  • Detectives are helpful, too. Not only do Zoo detectives want to help Detective Otter figure out “whodunit,” but they are generally helpful to their neighbors, friends and to nature.

You can print out your clue sheet or take one from the mailbox at Detective Headquarters at the Zoo anytime!

Closed cases

March Case Debrief
Case: In March, we celebrate women in science. Clue Spotter asked his friends to write about some of their favorite scientists who work at Zoo Atlanta.  One friend wrote about the Vice President of Collections and Conservation, Dr. Jennifer Mickelberg. In the letter, his friend tells us about her and the great work she has done with a primate species in South America. Clue Spotter’s friend ended the letter with a photo of Dr. Mickelberg and themselves. However, all we can see is a tail because the animal lives primarily in trees. Can you help figure out what animal is in the photo with Dr. Mickelberg?         

Status: Mystery Solved!
Answer: Golden lion tamarin

Clue 1: Our first clues are an image of a habitat and a map of a range. What would that be telling us? Oh, the mystery animal must live in that part of Brazil! There is also a picture of a kind of plant called a bromeliad and a photo of Dr. Jennifer Mickelberg with an animal’s tail in the background. Wonder who that tail belongs too…

  • Let’s travel to the Atlantic Coastal forest, northeast of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. This is where you can find our mystery animal!
  • Hmm, interesting; the habitat of our mystery animal consists of the lowland coastal rainforest which has tangles of vines and bromeliads. Bromeliads are flowering plants that are an important source of water. Additionally, bromeliads attract insects and amphibians, which are an excellent source of protein and fat for this animal.
  • Hmm, it is an arboreal animal, meaning that it likes to spend a lot of its time in trees. Its habitat consists of the trees, vines and bromeliads of the coastal rainforest. This habitat provides protection from predators in the sky and on the ground. This animal moves quadrupedally (on all fours) through the trees, using the vines in its habitat, which provide easy arboreal pathways.
  • Raptors (birds of prey), cats, weasel-like animals, and large snakes are the main predators of our mystery animal. These animals give alarm calls in response to strange or threatening things. They have calls that are particular to aerial predators (meaning seen in the sky) and to terrestrial predators (meaning found on the ground).

Clue 2: In the second clue box, there is a close-up image of the mystery animal’s coat. This animal has a golden coat of fur. Hmm, it looks familiar. Wonder what it could be … There are also some plastic insects and food in this clue box. That must be some of the mystery animal’s diet. Lastly, there is a skull replica and a footprint. This animal looks so small!

  • Whoa! That fur looks golden. Our mystery animal has a mane of silky golden hair that frames its face. Its fur is typically a golden color, apart from the tail and forepaws, which may be brown or black.
  • Check out that skull! Whoa, it appears to be shorter than the length of a crayon! This animal so small that adults weigh about a pound and a half. That is about the weight of a little over four sticks of butter!
  • Though tiny, those teeth are powerful. In the wild, this animal eats fruits, insects, invertebrates, birds and eggs. At Zoo Atlanta, it eats fruits, vegetables, canned marmoset diet, mealworms and crickets. This animal uses its long slender fingers to probe into crevices to reach its food; this is called micromanipulation.
  • This animal is diurnal, meaning that it is active during the day just like us. In the wild, it sleeps in tree holes that help it conserve body heat and protect it from nocturnal predators.
  • Our mystery animal has a special way of protecting its territory. Both males and females spend considerable time maintaining their territory by scent-marking and through vocalization. Our mystery animal scent-marks by repeatedly rubbing its chest and rump on surfaces in its area. It is an oily, musky scented substance.

Clue 3: Our final clue is a logo for a specific animal association. This animal must be on the endangered species list and needs our help to survive.

  • The conservation status of our mystery animal is listed as Endangered. Major threats include habitat fragmentation, meaning that this animal has a hard time finding food or mates, and habitat loss, meaning its home is disappearing because of agricultural activities and human activities. People also try to capture these animals to sell for pets, even though this animal is not a good pet. Only 2% of its habitat remains.
  • In the 1970s, the population of this species was estimated at 200 individuals. There are currently about 500 individuals in 150 zoos all around the world.
  • The population increase is thanks to the development of a conservation program that includes habitat protection and restoration, the moving of wild animals to safe forest habitats, a successful breeding program in zoos, reintroduction of individuals born in zoos back into the wild, and an education outreach program.
  • Zoo Atlanta is partnered with the Golden Lion Tamarin Association, a Brazilian organization, to conserve these animals and their habitat. Conservation efforts have helped increase their numbers in the wild to around 3,000!
  • The global population is managed by Dr. Jennifer Mickelberg based here at Zoo Atlanta. Dr. Mickelberg is a small population biologist who focuses on finding ways to make sure that this animal’s population stays healthy for many generations in the future. She has been working on conservation for our mystery animal for the last 16 years, working with populations in zoos and with partners working in the wild.

Put it all together

In the first clue box, we found an image of a habitat and a map of a range. We deduced that our mystery animal lives in South America, specifically Brazil. It resides in the lowland coastal rain forest, which has tangles of vines and bromeliads. Bromeliads are flowering plants that are an important source of water. Additionally, bromeliads attract insects and amphibians, which are an excellent source of protein and fat for this animal. We also found out that it is an arboreal animal, meaning that it likes to spend a lot of its time in trees. This habitat provides protection from predators in the sky and on the ground. This animal moves quadrupedally (on all fours) through the trees, using the vines in its habitat, which provide easy arboreal pathways. Finally, we discovered that raptors (birds of prey), cats, weasel-like animals, and large snakes are the main predators of our mystery animal. These animals give alarm calls in response to strange or threatening things. They have calls that are particular to aerial (sky) predators and to terrestrial (ground) predators.

In the second clue box, we found a close-up image of the mystery animal’s coat. Our mystery animal has a mane of silky golden hair that frames its face. Its fur is typically a golden color, apart from the tail and forepaws, which may be brown or black. We figured out that it’s a tiny animal. Its skull is smaller than the length of a crayon. This animal is so small that adults weigh about a pound and a half. That is about the weight of a little over four sticks of butter! Though tiny, those teeth are powerful. In the wild, this animal eats fruits, insects, invertebrates, birds and eggs. At Zoo Atlanta, it eats fruits, vegetables, canned marmoset diet, mealworms, and crickets. This animal uses its long slender fingers to probe into crevices to reach its food; this is called micromanipulation. We also learned that our mystery animal is diurnal, meaning it is active during the day just like us. In the wild, it sleeps in tree holes to conserve body heat and for protection from nocturnal predators. The last thing we learned at this clue box was that our mystery animal has a special way of protecting its territory. Both males and females spend considerable time maintaining their territory by scent-marking and through vocalization. Our mystery animal scent-marks by repeatedly rubbing its chest and rump on surfaces in its area. It is an oily, musky scented substance.

Our final clue box contained a logo for a specific animal association. We discovered that conservation status of our mystery animal is listed as Endangered. Major threats include habitat fragmentation and habitat loss due to agricultural activities and human activities, and the pet trade. Only 2% of their habitat remains. In the 1970s, the population of this species was estimated at 200 individuals. There are currently about 500 individuals in 150 zoos all around the world. The population increase is thanks to the development of a conservation program that includes habitat protection and restoration, the moving of wild animals to safe forest habitats, a successful breeding program in zoos, reintroduction of individuals born in zoos back into the wild, and an education outreach program. Also, we figured out that Zoo Atlanta is partnered with the Golden Lion Tamarin Association, a Brazilian organization, to conserve these animals and their habitat. Conservation efforts have helped increase their numbers in the wild to around 3,000! Finally, we learned that the global population is managed by Dr. Jennifer Mickelberg based here at Zoo Atlanta. Dr. Mickelberg is a small population biologist who focuses on finding ways to make sure that this animal’s population stays healthy for many generations in the future, and that she has been working on conservation for our mystery animal for the last 16 years, working with populations in zoos and with partners working in the wild.

After obtaining all this information, we can conclude that our mystery animal is the golden lion tamarin!

Great Job, Detectives!

Your pal,

Clue Spotter the Otter

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