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

December​ Case Debrief
Case: The animals at Zoo Atlanta are celebrating the holidays and exchanging Secret Santa gifts. They all picked names and each animal is getting a gift for another animal, but it’s a secret! Clue Spotter has already started shopping. Can you follow the clues to figure out who Clue Spotter the Otter will be giving a gift to?

Status: Mystery Solved!
Answer: Yang Yang the giant panda
  • Clue #1:  In this clue box, Clue Spotter left some hot sauce. How strange! A lot of animals receive scents like this as enrichment.

    - The animal that will be receiving the gift has an excellent sense of smell. He communicates with olfactory cues, meaning he leaves scent markings and leaves smells behind for other animals. They can also communicate by vocalizing, or making sounds.

    - This animal certainly would not eat the hot sauce! He just loves the smell. The hot sauce is a type of enrichment. Enrichment is anything we give the animals to keep them mentally stimulated, happy, and healthy, and that allows them to engage in natural behaviors here in the Zoo.
  • Clue #2: Clue Spotter also wants to include some tasty treats in this gift. In this box, Clue Spotter left some sweet potatoes, sugarcane, apples, leafeater biscuits, and bamboo since these are this animal’s favorite foods.

    - The animal receiving this gift has wild relatives that live in entire forests of bamboo, high in the mountains of China.

    - This animal’s diet is 99% bamboo, so he has sharp teeth for tearing away the outside of the bamboo, and flat molars and powerful jaw muscles for chomping down on this tough grass. You could see the teeth on the skull replica. 

  • Clue #3: All of the animals are making cards to go with their Secret Santa gifts. Clue Spotter made a card too. The envelope says “To: Y.Y., From: C.S.” Can you read the poem and figure out who Clue Spotter is giving the gift to?

“Happy Holidays to my dear friend
I hope you enjoy the gift I send
Hot sauce to smell and enjoy
Bamboo, sugarcane, and apples to munch…Oh boy!
This lovely card should make you smile
Let’s talk about you for awhile

It’s true that you are a bear
Sleeping and eating without a care
Your coarse coat of black and white keeps you warm
Protects you from rain and the snow storm
You have a pseudothumb for gripping bamboo
Sharp teeth, flat molars, and strong jaw muscles for crushing it too

As an endangered animal, not many remain
But through conservation efforts there is much you could gain
We can all help your species survive
In zoos and in the wild you could thrive
If we all learn and share what we know
I do hope the population of your kind will grow.”

Put it all together:
Clue Spotter is getting a gift for an animal with an excellent sense of smell, that eats mostly bamboo, has sharp teeth for tearing away the outside of bamboo and flat teeth for crushing it up, has powerful jaw muscles, is a bear that eats and sleeps a lot, has a black and white coat, and needs us to support conservation efforts and tell our friends what we have learned. We know that this specific animal likes the smell of hot sauce and has the initials “Y.Y.” It’s Yang Yang, the giant panda!

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.