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

May Case Debrief
Case:Clue Spotter is excited because in May, we celebrate Endangered Species Day! On May 12 at Zoo Atlanta, we honor endangered species. To celebrate, Clue Spotter is doing a fundraiser that will support his endangered friends in the wild. First, Clue Spotter must pick up three of his friends who will be celebrated at the fundraiser. Can you figure out all three mystery friends?

Status: Mystery Solved!
Answer: Kori bustard, African slender-snouted crocodile, and red panda  

Clue 1:Our first clues are foot comparison pictures, a feather, a skull, and an image of a habitat. What would that be telling us? Hmm, our first mystery animal must be a bird!

  • Let us take a trip to South Africa, in the open grasslands and savannas. This is where our first mystery animal lives. It lives in mostly open country, and it spends most of its time on the ground.
  • Look! There is a feather in this clue box. This animal must be a bird! Oh, and I see a picture of a foot. It seems to have three toes that face forward, but does not have a back toe that would help it to perch in trees!
  • This first mystery animal is an omnivore, meaning it enjoys eating a variety of foods, including insects, plants and small animals. It has adaptations that are used for foraging in the tall grasses of the African savanna.
  • That is an impressive bill! It has a strong pointed bill that allows it to pick up and eat various types of foods. Its bill is large and wide enough to swallow large prey.
  • Although global population size is unknown, the numbers of our mystery bird in the wild are thought to be getting smaller across much of the area where this species lives. Due to a variety of threats, including collisions with power lines, hunting and habitat loss, it has been listed as Near Threatened.

Clue 2:In the second clue box, there are three pictures: one of skin, a snout, and teeth. That skin looks scaly. The second mystery animal appears to be a reptile!

  • Ah, to pick up our next mystery friend, we must travel to the forested rivers and lakes of west and central Africa.
  • That is some scaly skin! This animal must be a reptile. Adults are a brownish-yellow color with darker brown markings along the body. Younger individuals are lighter, greenish-grey in color with black markings. Our mystery animal has three to four rows of protective scales that run along its back, a unique characteristic contributing to its species name, which means “clad in armor” in Greek.
  • Check out that snout! This species has a long, slender snout for catching fish. The snout is effective for reaching prey that may be in holes or small crevices, like in burrows or hiding in tree roots. The mouth is filled with 64 to 70 sharp teeth, beneficial for catching fish and small animals.
  • Our second mystery animal is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN. It is threatened by hunting for its meat and skin, habitat loss and impacts from local fisheries (this makes fewer fish available for this animal to eat, and these animals also get caught in fishing nets). Habitat is being modified for agriculture, including for rubber, cacao, and palm oil, and for human settlement.

Clue 3:Our final clue box contains a picture of red fur and a tail. It looks as though our final mystery animal is a mammal! This box also includes a skull and some bamboo. What could that be telling us? Oh, this animal must eat bamboo! Wonder who this animal could be …

  • On our final stop, we must carefully travel up some trees in Nepal, as our mystery animal enjoys living the high life! Hmm, look at that tail. It seems our mystery animal uses this bushy tail for balance, and the tail can be as long as its body. Ah, I see it uses its tail for gripping. Our mystery animal is an acrobatic tree dweller, which means that it prefers to spend most of its time in trees.
  • Its cinnamon red coat and soft cream-colored face mask give great camouflage among the red moss and white lichens that cover the tree trunks of its bamboo forest. Wow, that fur looks awfully thick! This is because this mystery animal lives in mostly cool, temperate forests with a shrubby understory dominated by thick bamboo.
  • Wow! For such a small animal, it certainly has large teeth! This species has powerful molars for chewing on tough bamboo and is mostly vegetarian – although it is classified as a carnivore. Speaking of bamboo, this animal can eat two to four pounds a day! That’s a lot for a small animal.
  • The population of our third mystery animal may have decreased by as much as 40 percent over the last 50 years. Its forest is threatened by road-building and illegal timber harvest. However, there are now worldwide efforts in place to save this species. Some of its habitat has been designated as protected areas. There are 20 such protected areas in India, 35 in China, and eight in Nepal.

Put it all together

In the first clue box, we found foot comparison pictures, a feather, a skull, and an image of a habitat. We deduced that our first mystery animal lives in the open grasslands and savannas of South Africa. It lives in mostly open country, and it spends most of its time on the ground. Look! There is a feather in this clue box. This animal must be a bird! We also saw a picture of a foot. It seems to have three toes that face forward, but does not have a back toe that would help it perch in trees. We figured out that this mystery animal is an omnivore, meaning it enjoys eating a variety of foods, including insects, plants and small animals. It has adaptations that are used for foraging in the tall grasses of its African savanna habitat. That is an impressive bill! We discovered that this animal has a strong pointed bill that allows it to pick up and eat various types of foods. Its bill is large and wide enough to swallow large prey. We also found out that although global population size is unknown, the numbers of our mystery bird in the wild are thought to be getting smaller across much of the area where this species lives. . Due to a variety of threats, including collisions with power lines, hunting and habitat loss, it has been listed as Near Threatened.

In the second clue box, there are three pictures: one of skin, a snout, and teeth. We figured out that our second mystery animal lives in the forested rivers and lakes of west and central Africa. That is some scaly skin! This animal must be a reptile. Adults are a brownish-yellow color with darker brown markings along the body. Younger individuals are lighter, greenish-grey in color with black markings. We learned that our second mystery animal has three to four rows of protective scales that run along its back, a unique characteristic contributing to its species name, which means “clad in armor” in Greek. Check out that snout! This species has a long, slender snout for catching fish. We discovered that the snout is effective for reaching prey that may be in holes or small crevices, like in burrows or hiding in tree roots. The mouth is filled with 64 to 70 sharp teeth, beneficial for catching fish and small animals. Lastly, we found out that our second mystery animal is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN. It is threatened by hunting for its meat and skin, habitat loss, and impacts from local fisheries (this makes fewer fish available for this animal to eat, and these animals also get caught in fishing nets). Its habitat is being modified for agriculture, including for rubber, cacao, and palm oil, and for human settlement

Our final clue box contains a picture of red fur and a tail. This box also includes a skull and some bamboo. On our final stop, we must carefully travel up some trees in Nepal, as our mystery animal enjoys living the high life! Hmm, look at that tail. It seems our mystery animal uses this bushy tail for balance, which can be as long as its body. We learned that this animal uses its tail for gripping. Our mystery animal is an acrobatic tree dweller, which means that it prefers to spend most of its time in trees. Let’s look at that close-up picture of its fur. Its cinnamon red coat and soft cream-colored face mask give great camouflage among the red moss and white lichens that cover the tree trunks of its bamboo forest. Wow, that fur looks awfully thick! We discovered that this is because this mystery animal lives in mostly cool, temperate forests with a shrubby understory dominated by thick bamboo. Check out that skull! For such a small animal, it certainly has large teeth! This species has powerful molars for chewing on tough bamboo and is mostly vegetarian – although it is classified as a carnivore. Speaking of bamboo, this animal can eat two to four pounds a day! That’s a lot for a small animal. Finally, we figured out that the population of our third mystery animal may have decreased by as much as 40 percent over the last 50 years. Its forest is threatened by road-building and illegal timber harvest. However, there are now worldwide efforts in place to save this species. Some of its habitat has been designated as protected areas. There are 20 such protected areas in India, 35 in China, and eight in Nepal.

After obtaining all this information, we can conclude that the three mystery animals for this month are the kori bustard, African slender-snouted crocodile and red panda!

Great Job, Detectives!

Your pal,

Clue Spotter the Otter

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