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Innovator: Marco Peters

By Beau Denton November 30, 2012

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Marco Peters

Marco Peters

Founder, Squalus, Inc.

Starting this month, Mote Aquarium is hosting a special exhibit, “Sea Lions: On the Water’s Edge,” that was developed by Squalus, an eight-employee company based in Myakka City. Marco Peters, the founder of Squalus, used to operate a touring shark exhibit with his brother, until one day in 1997 a marine mammal rescue center mistakenly called him about two stranded sea lions. The call inspired Peters, who took a year to build facilities and receive the necessary credentials and permits to form Squalus in 1998. Now, Peters has 10 sea lions, almost all rescues, divided among four facilities: two mobile units that travel the country to state fairs and zoos, a permanent facility in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and a private base of operations in Myakka City, where Peters and the sea lions rest between trips.

Peters says many state fairs reported all-time attendance and spending records this year, meaning ticket sales have been more than enough to cover the high costs of touring (diesel, fish and salt—for making fresh water hospitable to sea lions—are the biggest expenses). Keeping the animals safe and comfortable, not to mention arriving at the next show on time, is an ongoing challenge, requiring Peters to be meticulously organized. “If you organize everything it just runs better,” he says. “You can’t afford to sit on the side of the road with four sea lions because you didn’t get an oil change.”

Born in Holland, Peters moved to Sarasota in the 1980s to work with the Ringling Bros. circus. He is especially proud of the new Mote exhibit. “To bring this to my hometown for six months is a very high honor,” he says. “It’s going to be terrific.”

 

Overheard

“There are 2,008 501c3 nonprofit organizations in Sarasota County, vs. 406 in Naples. It’s a crowded field.”

Andrew Walker, nonprofit management consultant, speaking to the board of The Hermitage Artist Retreat in November

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