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

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

Status: Mystery Solved!
Answer: Red panda

Clue 1: Let’s take a trip out to the Himalayas! This mystery animal is from the mountainous regions of northern Myanmar and the western Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces in China.

  • Living the high life! Our mystery animal uses its bushy tail for balance, and the tail can be as long as its body. Ah, I see they use the tail for gripping, so our mystery animals are acrobatic tree dwellers. They prefer to spend most of their time in trees.
  • Their cinnamon red coats, occasionally saddled with orange or yellow, and soft cream-colored face masks give great camouflage among the red moss and white lichen that cover the tree trunks of their bamboo forest. Our mystery animal lives in mostly cool, temperate forests with a shrubby understory dominated by thick bamboo.

Clue 2:

  • Idgie’s species is predominantly solitary, meaning they prefer to live alone. They are most active at dawn or dusk. They enjoy living the high life! Look at that bushy tail – that tail is used for balance and can be as long as the animal’s body!
  • Wow! For such a small animal, it certainly has large teeth! Idgie’s species has powerful molars for chewing on tough bamboo and are mostly vegetarians – although they are classified as carnivores.
  • They have to eat how much bamboo?! Two to four pounds a day! That is a lot of bamboo for such a small animal. They must eat so much because bamboo is not a great food source for energy, and it’s hard to digest. One study found females, like Idgie, were found to eat approximately 20,000 bamboo leaves in a single day! Can you guess how many leaves are in this clue box?

Clue 3: 

  • On September 16 we celebrated this mystery animal and the important role it plays in its environment. Our mystery animal may have decreased in numbers 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 our mystery animal. 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.
  • Zoo Atlanta supports the Red Panda Network, a nonprofit organization that identifies unprotected red panda habitat and trains “forest guardians” to help bring awareness of red pandas to local villages and works with the villagers to establish new protected areas.

Put it all together
We first took a trip to the Himalayas, and here we found that our mystery animal can be found in the mountainous regions of northern Myanmar and the western Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces in China. In this clue box we found that the mystery animal uses its bushy tail for balance. We found that its tail can be as long as its body! We found that these animals have sharp claws to better grip trees, as our mystery animal is an acrobatic tree dweller, spending most of its time in the trees. We next saw a photo of their cinnamon red coats, occasionally saddled with orange or yellow, and their soft cream-colored face masks give great camouflage among the red moss and white lichen that cover the tree trunks of their bamboo forest. Their fur is also thick because our mystery animal lives in mostly cool, temperate forests with shrubby understory dominated by thick bamboo.

In our next clue, we spotted a skull that had very large teeth for such a small animal. We learned that our mystery animal has very powerful molars for chewing on tough bamboo and is mostly an herbivore -although it is classified as a carnivore. We found that this animal must eat a lot of bamboo daily, eating nearly 20,000 bamboo leaves in a single day! We found that they eat so much because bamboo is not a great food source for energy, and it’s hard to digest.

Our final clue led us to the Komodo dragon habitat. Inside this clue box, we found that our mystery animal may have decreased in numbers by as much as 40 percent over the last 50 years. Its forest is threatened by road-building and illegal timber harvest. We then learned that there are now worldwide efforts in place to save our mystery animal. 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. Finally, we learned that Zoo Atlanta supports the Red Panda Network, a nonprofit organization that identifies unprotected red panda habitat and trains “forest guardians” to help bring awareness of red pandas to local villages and works with the villagers to establish new protected areas. When we put all of the clues together, we figured out that our mystery animal is Idgie, the red panda! Great job, detectives!

Great Job, Detectives!

Your pal,

Clue Spotter the Otter

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl