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

August Case Debrief
Case: The African elephants at Zoo Atlanta, Tara and Kelly, are very excited for people to learn about how important elephants are! Elephants have many unique adaptations, but there is one feature that Tara and Kelly are especially proud of and want to teach everyone about. Can you help Clue Spotter find out what feature is so important for elephants?

Status: Mystery Solved!
Answer: Tusks

Clue 1:Our first clue box contains an elephant tooth, a picture of elephant teeth, and a picture of Tara (one of the elephants at Zoo Atlanta). What would that be telling us? Oh, the mystery feature must have something to do with an elephant’s teeth and mouth. Hmm, wonder what it could be …

  • The box contained a single elephant tooth. There are four of these molars in the back of an elephant’s mouth at one time. Elephants lose their molars six times in their lives; humans only lose their teeth once!
  • The features that Clue Spotter is looking for are modified incisor teeth. They don’t fall out like the other teeth but continue to grow throughout the elephant’s life.
  • Not all elephants have our mystery feature! They are found in both male and female African elephants and in most male Asian elephants.

Clue 2: In the second clue box, there is a picture of a tree with its bark taken off, a picture of a bulldozer, and a toy elephant. Elephants use this mystery feature to remove bark from trees.

  • An adaptation is a physical or behavioral characteristic of an animal that helps it to survive in its This mystery adaptation has many purposes for elephants. They are used for defense and protection, for helping the elephants find food and water, and for moving objects.
  • Elephants have two of these on their body and use them together like a bulldozer. They are used when the elephants are digging for water and edible roots.
  • This photo is of a tree with its bark taken off. Elephants use this body part to strip the bark off trees and to move limbs and branches when clearing a path.
  • Elephants have two of our mystery features and prefer one over the other, just like being right or left-handed!

Clue 3:Our final clue box contains an “Elphie” image, a 96 Elephants button, and a picture of tagua nuts. This box is about elephant conservation.

  • Some people take these from elephants in the wild and make carvings and other decorative items out of them, but tagua nuts can be used instead because they look similar when carved. Zoo Atlanta has joined the 96 Elephants campaign to help elephants keep this important adaptation!
  • 96 Elephants is an organization that believes if we, as humans, work together like an elephant herd does, then we have the power to save elephants from extinction. As a conservation program, 96 Elephants aims to raise awareness of the threats the African elephants are facing every day. 96 Elephants firmly believes that knowledge is power, and that the more we know, the more we can do to help the elephants. Learn more at 96elephants.org!
  • One of the easiest ways to help 96 Elephants is simply by spreading the word. The picture here is part of the 96 Elephants “Elphie” project. Anyone can participate. All you need to do is take a picture of yourself with this elephant picture or the elephants here at Zoo Atlanta and post it on social networking sites with #Elphie.
  • We celebrated World Elephant Day on August 11 with Kelly and Tara here at Zoo Atlanta!

Put it all together

Our first clue box contains an elephant tooth, picture of elephant teeth, and a picture of Tara (one of the elephants at Zoo Atlanta). What would that be telling us? Oh, the mystery feature must have something to do with an elephant’s teeth and mouth. In this box, there is a single elephant tooth. We learned that there are four of these molars in the back of an elephant’s mouth at one time. Elephants lose their molars six times in their lives; humans only lose their teeth once! The features that Clue Spotter is looking for are modified incisor teeth. They don’t fall out like the other teeth but continue to grow throughout the elephant’s life. We discovered that not all elephants have our mystery feature! They are found in both male and female African elephants and in most male Asian elephants.

In the second clue box, there is a picture of a tree with its bark taken off, a picture of a bulldozer, and a toy elephant. Elephants use this mystery feature to strip the bark from trees. This gives us a better idea as to how this feature works. We figured out that an adaptation is a physical or behavioral characteristic of an animal that helps it to survive in its environment. This mystery adaption has many purposes for elephants. They are used for defense and protection, for helping the elephants find food and water, and for moving objects. We learned that elephants have two of these on their body and use them together like a bulldozer. They are used when the elephants are digging for water and edible roots. This photo is of a tree with its bark taken off. Elephants use this body part to strip the bark off trees and to move limbs and branches when clearing a path. Elephants have two of our mystery feature and prefer one over the other, just like being right or left-handed!

Our final clue box contains an “Elphie” image, a 96 Elephants button, and a picture of tagua nuts. This box is about conservation. We discovered that some people take these from elephants in the wild and make carvings and other decorative items out of it, but tagua nuts can be used instead because they look similar when carved. Zoo Atlanta has joined the 96 Elephants campaign to help elephants keep this important adaptation! 96 elephants is an organization that believes if we, as humans, work together like an elephant herd does, then we have the power to save elephants from extinction. As a conservation program, 96 Elephants aims to raise awareness of the threats the African elephants are facing every day. 96 Elephants firmly believes that knowledge is power, and that the more we know, the more we can do to help the elephants. Learn more at www.96elephants.org! We figured out that one of the easiest ways to help 96 Elephants is simply by spreading the word. The picture here is part of the 96 Elephants “Elphie” project. Anyone can participate. All you need to do is take a picture of yourself with this elephant picture or the elephants here at Zoo Atlanta, and ask a parent to post it on social networking sites with #Elphie. Join us for World Elephant Day on August 11 for a fun-filled day with Kelly and Tara here at Zoo Atlanta!

After obtaining all this information, we can conclude that our mystery feature for this month is an elephant’s tusks.

Great Job, Detectives!

Your pal,

Clue Spotter the Otter

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