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

July Case Debrief
Case: Can you figure out who our mystery friend is?

Status: Mystery Solved!
Answer: Binturong

Clue 1: Our mystery animal lives in the southeastern Asian nations of Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. You can find them in the dense rainforest, and they play an important role in the rainforests ecosystem.

  • Our mystery animal has an important job in the forests where it is found. Through its fecal deposits, our mystery animal helps spread seeds from the fruits it eats. By doing this, it helps to replant the rainforest.

  • Living high in the forest canopy, this mystery animal rarely comes down to the ground.

  • Hmm, why is it so dark? Ah, I see, that is because we may only see our mystery animal active at night. They are nocturnal creatures. “Nocturnal” means that an animal is active during the night.

Clue 2:  The next clue involves adaptations that make this animal unique. These qualities assist it in surviving in the wild.

  • This animal has a face like a cat and a body like a bear. Its nickname is the “bearcat,” but this is rather misleading because it is not related to bears or cats!

  • Instead, they are related to animals like a neighbor animal, Logan the fossa.

  • They have huge tails with a leathery patch at the tip that helps the tail grip branches.

  • Our mystery animal is an Old World mammal and only one of two carnivores that have a prehensile tail! A prehensile tail is the tail of an animal that is adapted to be able to grasp or hold objects. Think of it like an extra hand.

  • Our mystery animal travels on all fours with its short legs that resemble raccoons’ legs. Wow! Look at those sharp claws! Those sharp claws combined with their short legs, padded paws and specialized wrists and ankles, help these animals grasp branches and stay close to the tree when climbing vertically.

Clue 3: Our final clue was the smell of popcorn that came from none other than our mystery animal!

  • Our mystery animal may smell like popcorn, but popcorn isn’t on its usual menu of food options. We saw the teeth that told us our mystery friend could eat meat. These are classified as carnivores, but have quite the frugivorous (fruit-eater) diet. The smell of popcorn comes from the animal’s scent glands, underneath its tail. It utilizes this gland to mark its territory and let other animals know that this is area is its turf!
  • Our mystery animal is listed as vulnerable in some parts of its range and endangered in others. Its primary threat is habitat loss. Nowhere in the wild are these animals common. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has established a Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for our mystery animal.

Put it all together
We learned from our first clue at lions that our mystery animal lives in the southeastern Asian nations of Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia and that its habitat is rainforests. This is where we saw the map of where the mystery animal could be found living. We learned that these animals live in dense rainforests, help spread plant seeds, and will assist in regrowth of their homes through this important role in the rainforest ecosystem!

Our second clue, located at gorillas was all about our mystery animal’s unique features. Here we saw pictures of how the animal’s face could have whiskers that resemble a cat and could have a long tail too! Those tails are prehensile and adapted to grasp or hold objects. We found out that the animal is not related to either a cat or bear, but is actually related to animals like our mystery animal’s neighbor, Logan the fossa. We learned that the animal travels on all fours and has short legs, somewhat like raccoons, and that it probably finds most of its food at night using those long whiskers to move around the forest. We saw that these animals have really sharp claws, and we saw how all those features help them grasp branches and stay close to the trees when climbing vertically.

Then, to our final clue at the Complex Carnivores habitats, we learned that our mystery animal may smell like popcorn, but popcorn isn’t on its usual menu of food options. Look at those teeth! Looks like this animal eats meat! The animals are indeed classified as carnivores but have quite the frugivorous (fruit-eater) diet. This scent does not come from their diet, as they eat mostly fruit and some rodents. Our mystery animal is listed as vulnerable in some parts of their range and endangered in others. Its primary threat is habitat loss. Nowhere in the wild are these animals common. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has established a Species Survival Plan® (SSP) for our mystery animal.

Great Job, Detectives!

Your pal,

Clue Spotter the Otter

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