ATLANTA (February 10, 2015) - Last week, Georgia Aquarium was made aware of an online video featuring a consultant to our organization, Jose Luis Barbero, allegedly mistreating animals while working at another location in Europe unrelated to our facility. Since then, we have been the recipient of much public concern and outrage on this matter. We want all to know that since opening our doors 10 years ago, Georgia Aquarium’s top priority is the wellbeing of ALL animals everywhere – particularly those entrusted to our care – and we take any allegation of this nature very seriously.

Simply put, we would never, in any away, condone or allow any mistreatment of animals to ever occur at any of our facilities. We have a zero tolerance policy against such treatment and will not tolerate it.

Because of this stance, we are continuing to investigate every aspect of this matter. We have had many conversations about this situation with Mr. Barbero himself, and he has confirmed to us that over the course of a career spanning more than 35 years, he has never participated in the mistreatment of animals - nor would he ever condone it. Still, this is just one part of our thorough investigation.

Georgia Aquarium is an organization that will always make decisions based on factual information and very thorough analysis. We don’t make decisions based on guesswork or hysteria. Just as we provide the utmost level of care to our animals, we also care deeply about the people who provide that care. According to the law, Mr. Barbero is innocent unless proven guilty, and we have no intention of condemning an individual based on a single piece of unsubstantiated evidence.  In any situation of this nature, we will always conduct a fair and just review of all of the information at our disposal. The same applies to any team member of our organization.

Here is what is known today regarding the video:

  • The validity of the video has not been proven and is extremely questionable. Clearly, it is very poor quality and crudely edited.
  • In order to determine its legitimacy, we will retain an independent third party to conduct a forensic analysis of the video.

If it were ever proven that a member of our team had abused an animal, he or she would be swiftly dismissed.  However, this video is as yet unsubstantiated.  In spite of this, Mr. Barbero’s family has been targeted, and the fine and dedicated staff of Georgia Aquarium are the focus of great outrage, all based on the unfortunate notion that we would hire someone who abuses animals as a part of our team. 

Georgia Aquarium is a world-renowned organization, and our staff and volunteers have dedicated their lives to providing the highest level of care for our animals every single day. Since opening in 2005, we have welcomed more than 22 million guests from all walks of life to be inspired and educated by these animals. It is our obligation, each and every day, to carry out Bernie and Billi Marcus’ commitment to aquatic life in all its forms.

Now, more than ever, we need your patience as we sort through this difficult and complex situation, and deeply appreciate your support. More importantly, we appreciate the passion you show - and that we share together - for animals everywhere.  Again, we take matters of this nature very seriously. We would never want the public to question the extraordinary quality of care we provide to our animals or our commitment to animals everywhere.  We encourage you to show your own commitment and your positive support via our Facebook and Twitter profiles, and welcome any questions or comments you might have.

-  Mike Leven, Chairman & CEO, Georgia Aquarium