Atlanta Life and Culture

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Dolphin trainer disappears

José Luis Barbero, the Spanish dolphin trainer accused of mistreating animals in his care, has disappeared, according to the Spanish language news site Ultima Hora Sucesos.

Barbero, 59, was chosen to become a new senior vice president at the Georgia Aquarium until a video surfaced last month allegedly showing him shouting at and striking dolphins at the Marineland Mallorca.

The Spanish news site said emergency services on the island of Mallorca initiated a search for Barbero on Wednesday. It reported he hadn’t been seen since first thing Tuesday morning, leaving his house in the El Toro neighborhood of Calvia, a city in Mallorca.

Members of the civil guard were searching for Barbero using land, sea and air units, according to Ultima Hora Sucesos.

The Georgia Aquarium has suspended the hiring of Barbero as it conducts an investigation into the alleged abuse, citing a second video purporting to show similar mistreatment by Barbero. Georgia Aquarium CEO Mike Leven said the aquarium has hired a former FBI agent to travel to Spain to assist in the investigation into Barbero’s activities, and is conducting separate forensic analyses of the videotapes.

Animal rights activists  have called for Barbero's dismissal.

Yet aquarium officials seemed worried about Barbero’s disappearance.

“We are very concerned,” said Leven. “We hope he turns up soon and that everything is all right. Our thoughts are with him and his family.”

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About the Author

Bo Emerson is an Atlanta native and a long-time AJC feature and news writer.