Zoo's Clues

The Detective Headquarters is open on Saturday, 10am - 2pm
weather dependent

You can print out your clue sheet or take one from the mailbox at Detective Headquarters at the zoo any time!

If you have questions or would like to submit your own mystery, e-mail us at


Super Sleuths Wanted
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 in the brown mailbox at our Detective Headquarters, located across from the elephant exhibit.

You can print out this month’s clue sheet (file on the right) from home if you want to get a head start!

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

Closed Cases

September Case Debrief
Case: Idgie the red panda lost her favorite hammock! But not to worry, Clue Spotter the Otter is on the case! Idgie told Clue Spotter that she lost it while on vacation in her native habitat. Can you help him figure out which continent he needs to visit to find Idgie’s hammock?

Status: Mystery Solved!
Answer: Red pandas live in the temperate bamboo forests of ASIA!

Clue #1: In the first clue box, we found some red panda fur and a map of mountains of the world. Clue Spotter knows Idgie is from the mountains and has dense, coarse, reddish-brown fur. She must like to stay in cooler climates!

  • Red pandas have dense, coarse fur that keeps them warm in their temperate forest habitat.
  • Red pandas are the only carnivores on their native continent with dense fur covering their feet.
  • Red pandas live in the mountains. The map showed us major mountain ranges in North America, South America and Asia. Red pandas must live on one of these continents! 

Clue #2: We found a pile of Idgie’s favorite snack, bamboo, in the second clue box. Red pandas must live somewhere where plenty of bamboo can grow.

  • Red pandas are technically carnivores but have an omnivorous diet. They eat bamboo leaves, fruit, and even insects!
  • They have five digits on each front paw along with a pseudothumb, a special extension of the wrist bone that helps them grasp bamboo.
  • Bamboo is a type of grass that grows very quickly and is strong but flexible. The map showed us where in the world the bamboo that red pandas like grows: Africa, Asia, and North America. Red pandas must be native to one of these continents!

Clue #3: In the last clue box, we found a picture of the Himalayan Mountains and found out that about 50% of red panda habitat is found in temperate forests around these mountains. There was also information about how the Red Panda Network is helping save red pandas in the wild.  

  • The red panda is losing its habitat due to forest clearing, causing a decline in their populations.
  • Half (50%) of the red panda’s habitat is in the Eastern Himalayas. We saw a map showing the Himalayas in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and China. What continent do these countries belong to?

Put it all together
We first learned that red pandas have thick fur to keep them warm in their temperate mountain habitat. North America, South America, and Asia all have mountain ranges with temperate forests, but we also learned that red pandas are the only Asian carnivore with dense fur on their feet. When we traveled to Africa, we learned that red pandas like to eat bamboo, even though they are technically carnivores. Red pandas like bamboo that grows in North America, Africa, and Asia. Although there are mountains in South America, red pandas’ preferred bamboo doesn’t grow there, so now we know red pandas are not native to South America. We looked for the last clue in the native habitat of the giant panda. There we learned that red pandas live in the eastern Himalayas, a mountain range that covers parts of India, Bhutan, Nepal, and China, where giant pandas live. These countries are all part of the continent of ...ASIA!

Great job, detectives!

Your pal,

Clue Spotter the Otter

Skills you need to be a good Zoo detective:

  • The ability to observe. You should really take a good look at the clues provided. Look at clues from several angles and make 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. In order 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.