The 2018 SAAMBR Megalodon Award – John Ballard

At the recent 65th AGM, SAAMBR was proud to present the Megalodon Award to Mr John Ballard. The Megalodon Award is the highest honour that can be bestowed by SAAMBR on an individual who has made a significant contribution to the operational and/or reputational growth of SAAMBR.

John Ballard was appointed as the Sea World Curator in 1968. In those early years the staff were adept at multi-tasking and John was involved in exhibit development, interpretation, husbandry, specimen collection and water chemistry. He even participated in research cruises and consultancies. During those days there was little to guide the aquarium team and John’s ability to design and create innovative ecosystem exhibits were way ahead of the single species exhibits popular at the time. As the Deputy Director: Aquarium and Technical at Sea World he managed the aquarium and technical departments and was responsible for all diving operations.

John was responsible for many innovations and his technical and exhibitory skills are legendary. Many of the pieces of equipment that we now take for granted were designed and made by John in his workshop. His design of a pressure chamber to safely bring fish up from deep water was ground breaking and the system is in use in aquariums around the world today. John’s experience was widely consulted during the design and construction of the new uShaka Sea World facility. He was an integral part of the team that moved all of the animals from the old Sea World to the new premises where his experience and advice ensured that the move went smoothly – for both staff and animals.

Although John officially retired October 2004 his skills are still needed and he has continued to mentor and guide new staff members in the art of animal husbandry, while making a wide range of innovative gadgets, pieces of equipment and tools for many different projects. John, with his humility and extraordinary skills, exemplifies a rather rare type of person, someone who makes a real difference in the lives of others, without fuss or fanfare. SAAMBR has been truly privileged to have retained the skills of such a talented individual for 50 years.