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.

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 near the southern ground hornbill 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: Conservation South Luangwa (CSL), Zoo Atlanta’s partner in elephant conservation, has invited Clue Spotter to visit their team in Zambia! But it’s not your typical conservation organization. Can you help Clue Spotter research CSL to determine what other animal helps humans protect wildlife in the South Luangwa ecosystem?

Putting the clues together: At the first clue box, we found a picture of the logo of an organization that trains our mystery animal here in the United States to help with conservation efforts for wildlife around the world. Working ____ for Conservation selects our mystery animals for their high energy and their love of toys. They train the mystery animal to support wildlife conservation by detecting things like invasive species, illegal snares and disease. We also found a picture of a continent with the country of Zambia highlighted. We learned that Conservation South Luangwa works in Zambia to protect animals like lions, elephants, leopards and giraffes. While only the continent of Africa is home to all of these animals, our mystery animal can be found around the world.

In the second clue box, we found a skull replica of a wolf and learned that wolves are related to our mystery animal. We looked inside the nasal cavity of the wolf skull to see turbinals – bones that support our mystery animal’s respiration (breathing) and olfaction (smelling). We also learned that, like snakes, our mystery animal uses its Jacobson’s organ to read chemical signals released by other animals. Our mystery animal helps CSL stop wildlife crime by sniffing out elephant ivory, firearms and ammunition, leopard skin, and certain species of animals hunted illegally for meat. Their Jacobson’s organ helps them distinguish these scents from other animals’ scents.

At the third and final clue box, we found examples of training rewards for both our mystery animal and gorillas. We learned that, just like the professionals working at the Zoo, human members of the CSL Detection ___ Unit complete thorough training to provide the best care possible to the animals. Our mystery animal, gorillas and many other animals at the Zoo participate in training using positive reinforcement. That means when they produce a requested behavior, they’re rewarded with something they like. While animals at the Zoo are rewarded with yummy foods, our mystery animal is usually rewarded with a toy like a rope or a squeaky toy covered in fabric.

Once we put all these clues together, we now know that the mystery animal is a dog!

Status: Mystery Solved!

Answer: dog

Great job, Detectives!

Your pal,
Clue Spotter the Otter

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