More commonly known as Ric O’Barry, he started out capturing and training dolphins for the Miami Seaquarium and through the 1960s became the head trainer for the five dolphins who collectively played Flipper on the popular American TV show. When, in early 1970, a few years after production of Flipper had ended, Kathy, the dolphins who most often played Flipper, died in O’Barry’s arms, he concluded that capturing, displaying and training dolphins to perform tricks was wrong. On Earth Day in 1970 he founded The Dolphin Project, an organization dedicated to educating the public about the plight of dolphins in captivity. He also pioneered work to demonstrate rehabilitation and release as a viable alternative for captive dolphins. O’Barry has since rescued and released over twenty-five captive dolphins in Haiti, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Brazil, The Bahamas and the United States.
O’Barry and his associate Lloyd A. Good III were found guilty of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act for not providing adequate notice for releasing two dolphins into the Gulf of Mexico. He was sent in jail.
For the last 40 plus years O’Barry has spoken about the harmful effects of captivity on dolphins at lectures and conferences around the world. In 1991 in recognition of his contribution to the protection of dolphins, O’Barry received an Environmental Achievement Award, presented by the US Committee for the United Nations Environmental Program. In 2007, he became a marine mammal specialist for Earth Island Institute and director of the Save Japan Dolphins Campaign. Working with Save Japan Dolphins, O’Barry leads an international effort to stop the killing of dolphins, end the trafficking in live dolphins to theme parks and captive swim-with-the-dolphins attractions and continues to lecture and speak out against the captivity industry.
O’Barry features in Academy Award winning documentary film The Cove, which investigates links between the killing capture, trade and display of dolphins all over the world. O’Barry and his son Lincoln O’Barry are also behind the Blood Dolphin$ TV show for Discovery’s Animal Planet, which continues on where The Cove left off.
O’Barry is co-author of three books, Behind the Dolphin Smile, To Free a Dolphin (both with Keith Colbourne) and most recently Die Bucht about dolphins and the making of The Cove published in Germany with Hans Peter Roth. Richard O’Barry is a Fellow National in the Explorers Club and he lives with his wife and daughter in both Denmark and Miami.