It’s a story as bizarre as any you’ll ever see in the world of animal captivity.
The Georgia Aquarium was close to naming international dolphin trainer Jose Luis Barbero as their new vice president, but last week, he went missing and was later found dead of an apparent suicide.
Before that, Barbero’s family was receiving death threats and his wife had to be hospitalized for stress, WSB-TV reported. It all stemmed from the release of a video that showed Barbero abusing some of the dolphins he was training.
Back in February, animal activists released the first of two videos online showing some of the horrible training techniques Barbero used on the dolphins. If you care to watch, here’s the first of the videos, but you’ve been warned – it’s disturbing.
A second video was released to the public last Thursday, two days after Barbero went missing, according to WSB. Barbero was found dead Saturday in his car in the parking lot of the Palma de Mallorca airport on Mallorca Island, authorities told CNN.
Despite the harsh criticism from animal activists, Georgia Aquarium CEO Mike Leven said he would wait until the end of an independent investigation to draw any conclusion about Barbero, saying the grainy tapes may not be authentic. Nevertheless, his employment was put on hold until the consultants could complete their investigation.
Following the news of Barbero’s death, Leven released a statement, which was obtained by CNN:
Georgia Aquarium began a search for truth in hopes of disproving these unsubstantiated claims. Sadly, (Barbero) and his family received death threats, and groups and individuals rushed to judge him. He was not given the right or the privilege to be considered innocent until proven guilty … His death is untimely, unnecessary and unjust.
CNN said it could not confirm the authenticity of the videos, and also reported that Barbero’s employer in Spain, Marineland Mallorca, plans to take legal action against those who accused Barbero of animal cruelty.
Image: WSB-TV screenshot