Longtime Treasure Coast Wildlife Center director Dan Martinelli dies

Posted on October 12, 2019

Treasure Coast Wildlife Center has lost one of its leading defenders in Martin County.

Dan Martinelli, 69, was the executive director of the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center in Palm City. Overall, he spent 27 years at the nonprofit organization, which provides help for injured and orphaned wild animals. 

The center announced his death Thursday after he died from cancer. A celebration of life ceremony is being planned, said Stacy Ranieri, owner of the Firefly Group, a public relations company. 

"Dan was the face and voice of the wild creatures we care for and his spirit will live on through them and through all of us," the wildlife center said in a statement.

The Brooklyn, New York, native moved to Miami when he was a child, according to his resume. His fascination with wildlife developed when he was a child, too.

"He carried around a photo in his wallet of his first turtle," said Tim Brown, director of education at the wildlife center, who had known Martinelli for decades.

Martinelli also was a snake enthusiast, Brown said.

Martinelli studied biology at the University of Miami, then graduated from Florida International University in Boca Raton. 

He had been an educator and provided wildlife rehabilitation at a center in Miami before becoming assistant director for the Treasure Coast center in 1992. He became executive director in 1994.

"He was articulate and the way he spoke, he could command an audience to pay attention," Martin County Commissioner Ed Ciampi said. "He could talk with school children or he could talk with multi-millionaires about fundraising for the wildlife center."

Above all, he knew how to deal with animals, Brown said. 

"Some people are critter people, and the animals can sense that," Brown said. "They could sense it with Dan. He was really skilled with suturing animals."

During Martinelli's cancer battle, the wildlife center named Susan Nash as interim executive director, Brown said. Martinelli still maintained a voice for the organization. 

"Dan still came to our budget meetings this year even though he knew he wouldn't be around to see those things come to fruition," said Ciampi, who went on bird releases with Martinelli after they had finished rehabilitation at the center. 

Martinelli is survived by his three daughters and five grandchildren, Ranieri said. 


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