Renown wildlife conservationist and shark photographer Ron Taylor died Sunday at a private hospital in Sydney, Australia, after succumbing to a two-year battle with myeloid lukemia, a type of cancer that interferes with normal blood cell production in the bone marrow. Taylor and his wife Valerie are probably most commonly recognized for their film contribution to the movie Jaws, but their dedication to the research and documentation of sharks extended far beyond the reaches of Hollywood, a legacy that will continue on in the world of ocean conservation.
Ron Taylor set out on his life’s path when he began diving in 1952. He soon found himself in the pursuits of spearfishing and underwater photography, two arenas of diving at which he naturally excelled. In 1962, he received his first award for a news film he produced, entitled Playing With Sharks. Shortly thereafter, his first major underwater film production, Shark Hunters, was sold to Australian television producers, and later sold to American producers.
The Taylors’ prominence in the field of wildlife conservation began steadily increasing, as they continued documenting sharks at a prolific rate, and even lobbied for the protection of breeding grounds and habitat for several marine bird species. A great deal of their film and photography projects were made in the interest of marine environment conservation, which included the documentation of whale sharks in Western Australia to prevent oil drilling on Ningaloo Reef, successful electronic barrier shark repellent testing, and establishing protection for one of Australia’s shallow water shipwrecks.
The couple went on to publish several books featuring their photography, and in addition to their own films, filmed with many expeditions for television documentaries. In 2003, Ron was awarded Member of the Order of Australia, an honor bestowed upon Australian citizens for their extraordinary achievements or service, for which he was immensely qualified in the field of marine conservation. Taylor’s passion for sharks and the dedication to increasing public understanding of their role in the planet’s survival were defining characteristics of his life, and will be carried on by a growing majority of people who share the views of Australia’s late “shark man.”
Image via Michiel Van Balen