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 observe Endangered Species Day! On May 13 at Zoo Atlanta, we honor endangered species. To celebrate, Clue Spotter is going to a fair that will help raise awareness for his endangered friends in the wild. First, Clue Spotter must pick up three of his friends who will be celebrated at the fair. Can you figure out all three mystery friends?

Status: Mystery Solved!
Answer: Our three mystery animals are the Chinese mountain viper, drill and giant otter.

Clue 1: The first clue was spotted in Scaly Slimy Spectacular. In this clue box, you found a photograph of the mystery animal, a map of the region, and a nature reserve logo.

  • Hunan Province is in China. The animal is found in the temperate and tropical forested areas where the terrain is steep and wet.

  • This species is the only known non-cobra to reportedly spit venom. The scientific name of our mystery animal is Protobothrops, which comes from the Greek words for “before,” “pit” and “eye,” and alludes to the heat-sensitive depressions on each side of the head between the eye and nostril. These special organs allow the snake to sense heat and detect prey.

  • Our mystery animal is a highly threatened species, with a small range. There are thought to be only 500 individuals of this species in existence. Because of their small population, this animal receives protection from the Mangshan Natural Nature Reserve in China where it is found.

  • Additionally, there are active zoological breeding programs in the U.S., and the San Diego Zoo is currently working on creating a Species Survival Plan, which ensures genetically diverse population in zoos.

Clue 2:  The second clue was located inside The Living Treehouse. Here we found a footprint and some photos of this amazing animal.

  • Whoa! Look at those teeth! Looks like a carnivore, but this mystery animal is an omnivore and forages primarily on the ground. An omnivore means this animal eats both plants and animals. It is a large-short-tailed forest baboon. That often gets mistaken as its cousin, the mandrill.

  • Look at that footprint; it doesn’t look like it could live in trees! Our mystery animal walks on the flat surfaces of its hands and feet, but not on its knuckles as apes do.

  • This mystery animal is considered the most endangered of all African primates. Deforestation and unsustainable harvest for trade are creating an uncertain future for this species.  The Drill Project is a conservation initiative aimed at providing educational resources and conducting scientific research to aid in conservation efforts for this endangered primate species.

Clue 3: The final stop before heading to the fair was found at the Komodo dragon viewing area, and here we found a skull replica and photos of the animal that gave us clues as to what species it is.

  • This animal is the largest of all of one group of animals, growing to a body length of over 5 feet! Our mystery animal can only be found in the rivers and creeks of South America.  It is a very fast swimmer and can swim as far as 330 meters in 30 seconds! That adds up to three football fields! WOW!

  • Look at the teeth on that skull! This animal is known as the “river wolf” because it is one of the top predators in South America’s rivers. Its diet is composed of almost exclusively fish.

  • Those are some long whiskers! Those whiskers aid in detecting potential prey in murky water where the whiskers can feel for small animals and water movement created by fish as the animal swims. Its tail can be longer than 27 inches and is important in swimming, especially steering and turning.

  • Habitat loss and pollution are major threats to the survival of our mystery animal. This animal is considered an endangered species and is protected under the Endangered     Species Act. This act helps protect plants and animal species that are at risk of becoming extinct.

Put it all together
We learned that the first animal has only been found in the Mangshan Mountains in the Hunan Province in China. This species is the only known non-cobra to reportedly spit venom. We found that the scientific name of our mystery animal comes from the Greek words for “before,” “pit” and “eye,” and alludes to the heat-sensitive depressions on each side of the head between the eye and nostril. These special organs allow the snake to sense heat and detect prey. There are thought to be only 500 individuals of this species in existence and due to their small population, which receives protection in China.  In our first clue, we learned that programs in the U.S. are currently in the works to create a Species Survival Plan, which ensures genetically diverse populations.

Our next stop was at The Living Treehouse, here we saw a photograph of our second mystery animal’s teeth. Although the animal looked like a carnivore, it was in fact an omnivore. This is a type of animal that eats both plants and animals, and this animal forages primarily on the ground. Our second mystery animal is a large-short-tailed forest baboon that often gets mistaken as its cousin, the mandrill. Deforestation and unsustainable harvest for trade create an uncertain future for this species. The Drill Project is a conservation initiative aimed at providing educational resources and conducting scientific research to aid in conservation efforts for this endangered animal.

The final stop was at Komodo dragon viewing. Here, we found that our third mystery animal has webbed feet but is not a duck. This animal is the largest of all of one group of animals, growing to a body length of over 5 feet! It can only be found in the rivers and creeks of South America. It is a very fast swimmer and can swim the length of three football fields in 30 seconds! Our mystery animal is known as the “river wolf” because it is one of the top predators in South America’s rivers. Its diet is composed of almost exclusively fish. Its long whiskers aid in detecting potential prey in murky waters. Here, it can feel small animals and detect fish movement in the water as it swims. Their talks can be longer than 27 inches and is important in swimming, especially steering and turning. Habitat loss and pollution are major threats to the survival of our mystery animal. This animal is considered an endangered species and is protected under the Endangered Species Act. This act helps project plants and animal species that are at risk of becoming extinct.

When we put it all together we discover that our first mystery animal is the Chinese mountain viper, our second animal is the drill, and finally our last mystery animal is the giant otter.

Great Job, Detectives!

Your pal,

Clue Spotter the Otter

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