“What happened to the king of the dolphins?”: who was José Luis Barbero and how the dolphin trainer died

José Luis Barbero had become one of the most renowned cetacean trainers in the world; However, when he was at the top, the dissemination of a 99-second video, in which he allegedly mistreated some dolphins, ended not only his career, but also his life.

The story of this character is told in the Netflix documentary “What happened to the king of the dolphins?”, in which interviews are compiled not only with his family and co-workers, but also with animal rights movements and businessmen from marine parks. .

Because the case became an international scandal, we tell you who Barbero was and how he died.

José Luis Barbero dedicated more than 30 years of his life to training dolphins (Photo: Polar Star Films)


As we pointed out at the beginning, José Luis Barbero was a Spanish dolphin trainer who had dedicated most of his life to cetaceans.a fact that led him to be recognized worldwide.

Not only that, well had promoted dolphin therapy throughout Europea technique that consists of the interaction of the human being with dolphins with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people who have chronic and psychological diseases.

Because he had had a fruitful and accomplishing career, At 59, married and the father of two children, he was getting ready to retire all the way up, fair had been hired as a senior vice president of the prestigious Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, United States, for which he closed several decades of work with a flourish; However, everything fell apart after the dissemination of a video.


It was on February 4, 2015, when A 99-second video began to circulate on social networks in which it apparently showed José Luis Barbero mistreating a group of dolphins of Marineland during a training session.

“Wow, how lazy you are! Touch the fucking ball or I’m going to give you a bucket on the head”it is heard, although the veracity of the images was questioned because they were blurry, it was even said that everything had been manipulated to make the coach look bad.

True or not, at that time The indignation seized the people who began to describe him as a torturer. They even threatened him and his family with death.according to a statement from the Georgia Aquarium, where he worked for the last eight years, and where he was going to start a new job as senior vice president.


Just over 20 days later, Barbero came forward to show his face. “What they have done to me is a true massacre (…). They have waited for me to disassociate myself from Marineland, renouncing a 30-year settlement, to spread it hoping that the Georgia Aquarium would break my contract “he said in an interview with El Mundo on February 26, 2015.

After the dissemination of the video and harassment of the people, Barbero went to Mallorca to report the case to the Civil Guard. He claimed that the images had been manipulated for the sole purpose of damaging his image.


The March 3, 2015, José Luis Barbero I was supposed to go to the airport to pick up a vet, but he didn’t show up. At night, his wife denounced his disappearanceso they focused on finding it, although without results.

Four days later, on March 7, his body was found inside his vehiclethat he had entered the Sont Sant Joan airport, but only to take his own life on the fourth floor of the car park.

Although his death left many dismayed, especially the places where he had worked, there were those who were happy for his death.

“He did not have the right or privilege to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Barbero was tortured viciously enough for him to decide to take his own life.”the Georgia Aquarium said in a statement, while describing the way in which they treated the dolphin trainer as torture.

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