Practicing Routine Dolphin Exams

Published April 02, 2013

Today's post comes from our Senior Marine Mammal Trainer, Kerry Martens! 

At the National Aquarium we believe in and practice excellence in animal care. As trainers, we work with the animals every day, practicing medical behaviors that allow us to take the best possible care of them.

Each morning the dolphins get a visual check. They have been trained to present to us different parts of their bodies so we can check their skin and get a good look at their overall body condition.

dolphin body check

Next, we ask the animals to present their fluke. This is where the Veterinarians take a blood sample from. Routine blood samples are taken from our dolphins just like people get blood taken during check-ups with their doctors.

dolphin fluke

Besides looking at the overall body of the animal, there are a few other items we check out as well.

We check the dolphin’s teeth daily to make sure they are in good condition. Dolphins only have one set of pointy cone-shaped teeth for their entire lives!

dolphin teeth check

We also check their breath, or blow. All of the animals are trained to forcefully exhale on cue. Lastly, once a week, the animals get weighed. They are trained to haul up and out of the water onto a flat scale. Most of our dolphins weigh between 300-400 pounds, but Nani is over 500!

Nani on the scale!

Nani on the scale!

Once we finish their daily visual check we want to make sure to reward the dolphins for their good behavior. As trainers it is extremely important that we have strong positive relationships with each of the animals. Play time is a great way to build that relationship!

Chesapeake is ready for to play!

Chesapeake is ready for to play!

The information gathered from the visual checks not only allows us to take the best care of our dolphins, but share information with other aquariums and researchers as well. For information on the National Aquarium’s many ongoing research projects, visit our Research page!

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