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

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

Status: Mystery Solved!
Answer: Bogs / Bog restoration

Clue 1: Our first clue is this bottle with a plant inside. What could it possibly represent? Ah, I see because we are talking about ecosystems, this bottle represents how an ecosystem works! How fascinating.

  • An ecosystem is a biological community of organisms, like plants and animals, interacting with their physical environment – the soil, weather, and the atmosphere, as well as the Sun or Earth itself! An ecosystem can be as small as a puddle or as large as the Pacific Ocean. Our mystery ecosystem is something called a wetland.
  • A wetland is an area of land where water does not drain well. The ground in a wetland is soaked, or full of water. Often, the ground is covered with shallow water.
  • These wetland habitats are considered ephemeral environments, meaning that they are a natural transitional stage between one type of habitat and another. As wetlands slowly drain, they transition into an ultimately drier habitat.

Clue 2: If we are trying to figure out the ecosystem Zoo Atlanta helps restore, why are we looking at a turtle shell for clues? Ah, I see, detectives, that is because plants make or break the suitability of most ecosystems. This in turn affects animal species. The ecosystem we are looking for is home to the smallest turtles in North America.

  • The bog turtle is the smallest turtle found in the United States. Invasive plants such as the purple loosestrife can dry out large areas of suitable habitat. Bog turtles are extremely sensitive to climate change. Their survival is closely tied to its delicate habitat.
  • Look at this! This box contains freshwater and a type of sponge-like ground consisting mainly of partially decayed plant matter called peat. This environment is typically found in cool, northern climates.
  • Hmm, it seems their environment is clearly defined by their lack of nutrients and its inability to support a large amount of plant life. Most of plant life around our mystery habitat include fungi, mosses, and carnivorous plants like the pitcher plant and the sundew.

Clue 3: Wow! Look at these amazing creatures that live in this habitat! This habitat serves a vital role in the overall health of our planet. Wetlands like this help regulate water levels, improve water quality by filtering out pollutions, reduce flood and storm damage and provide important habitats for fish and wildlife.

  • This habitat is one of the most critically endangered habitats in the southern Appalachian Mountains. This habitat is home to species found nowhere else, like our friend from our first box, the bog turtle.
  • The Zoo Atlanta Horticulture Team assists the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy in mountain bog restoration. Zoo Atlanta helps by removing “over-story” trees and woody plants, so endangered plant species like the pitcher plant, which need full sun, can thrive and produce seeds.
  • You can help this backyard conservation project by telling everyone what you have learned. You can also become a volunteer with your school, friends and family through Georgia’s Adopt-A-Stream program. For more information, visit adoptastream.georgia.gov.

Put it all together

In the first clue box, we found a bottle with a plant and some water inside. We found that this bottle represented an ecosystem and how they work. We learned that an ecosystem is defined by all living organisms in a specific area. The systems are the plants and animals interacting with their non-living environments like weather, earth, sun, soil and the atmosphere. An ecosystem can be as small as a puddle or as large as the Pacific Ocean. We then found that our mystery for this month wasn’t an animal but an ecosystem known as a wetland. We learned that a wetland is an area of land that doesn’t drain water well. The ground in a wetland is soaked, or full of water. Often the ground is covered with shallow water. Our final clue in our first box gave us what our ecosystem is considered an ephemeral environment, meaning that they are a natural transitional stage between one type of habitat and another. As wetlands slowly drain, they transition into an ultimately drier habitat.

In the second clue box, we found a turtle shell. Although it seemed strange, this clue tied well into learning about what ecosystem Zoo Atlanta helps restore because the turtle species lives there. We found that plants make or break the suitability of most ecosystems and this in turn affects animal species. We learned the ecosystem we are looking for is home to the smallest turtles in North America, the bog turtle. We learned that bog turtles are extremely sensitive to climate change and their survival is closely tied to its delicate habitat. Bog turtles thrive in a type of spongy-like ground consisting mainly of partially decayed plant matter called peat. This environment is typically found in cool, northern climates. We then learned that the environment is clearly defined by their lack of nutrients and its inability to support a large amount of plant life. Most of plant life around our mystery habitat include fungi, mosses and carnivorous plants like the pitcher plant and the sundew.

Our final clue box contained a mini replica of our mystery ecosystem. We found various plants and creatures that live in this habitat. We learned that this habitat serves a vital role in the overall health of our planet. Wetlands like this help regulate water levels, improve water quality by filtering out pollutions, reduce flood and storm damage and provide important habitats for fish and wildlife. We learned that just like animals, habitats too can become endangered, and our mystery ecosystems is one of the most critically endangered in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The Zoo Atlanta Horticulture Team assists the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy in mountain bog restoration. Zoo Atlanta helps by removing over-story trees and woody plants in order for endangered plant species like the pitcher plant, which need full sun, can thrive and produce seeds. We finally learned how we can help this backyard conservation project by telling everyone what you have learned. We also can become a volunteer with your school, friends and family through Georgia’s Adopt-A-Stream program.

Great Job, Detectives!

Your pal,

Clue Spotter the Otter

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