The four pillars of DPMMR include Animal Care, Education and Outreach, Scientific Investigation, and Rescue and Rehabilitation. While all four pillars are critical to our Connect to Protect mission, one of the most important is Animal Care, which for us simply means providing the absolute best care and welfare for the dolphins that reside at our facility and depend on us.
Part of this care is ensuring that the dolphins remain at a healthy weight, depending on the time of year, water temperature, and the individual’s activity level, sex, age, and reproductive status.
But, how do we weigh the dolphins in the water? The short answer is… we can’t. Instead, we need them to “beach” themselves out of the water and onto a giant, waterproof scale. Using a hand signal, we ask the dolphins to voluntarily propel themselves out of the water and slide out onto a 4ft x 6ft scale, lift their flukes out of the water, and remain stationary for a few seconds so we can get an accurate weight. Knowing their exact weight helps our veterinary and animal care teams manage the dolphins’ overall body condition and can help us contribute to important research.
Above: Dolphin sliding out of the water onto a scale. Image courtesy of SR Instruments.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to get exact weights for any of our dolphins since 2017 when Hurricane Irma destroyed our scale. Instead, we have been relying on the science of “morphometrics” to estimate our animal’s weights, where the dolphins’ length and girth are entered into a formula and and estimated weight can be calculated from there.
One of our goals for 2021 was to purchase a new scale so we can get back to weighing our animals weekly! Unfortunately, we can’t just go to the convenience store to purchase a waterproof scale, we have to have one custom built at a factory in New York. Each new scale comes with a shiny $5,000 price tag (wow!), so in January we embarked on a fundraising goal for a new scale.
Happily, DPMMR was able to raise about HALF of the costs of this scale so far and we still have about half of the way to go to be able to finally purchase a new scale.
Lucky for us, we have a group of local 8th grade students who are helping us raise money for the cause! This group of 8th graders visited our facility and learned about our animal care program. After learning of the need for a scale, they went to work raising awareness in their local community for DPMMR’s animals and our need for a new scale. They’ve already raised $725 of their $1,000 goal, which puts DPMMR very close to our final goal.
(If you would like to support their 8th Grade Project and DPMMR's goal to buy a scale, their link and story can be found here:
We are very excited to soon be able to get exact weights on our animals again and are extremely grateful for this group of 8th graders who are helping us reach our goal!
Hopefully the next time you visit our headquarters, you will be able to see our “Whale of a Scale” in action.