The captive breeding and management of the Western Swamp Tortoise Pseudemydura umbrina is a major zoological success story. Yet such programs do not operate in a social vacuum, and they have many critics. Science is a human activity and, as such, indivisible from social values. It is useful both for the scientific community and the wider community to ground our ideas of science by presenting the stories of scientists and the science they enact. This disrupts the diehard assumption that science is objective. For some, objectivity is held to be the indisputable gold standard for science; for others, objectivity is the, indelible original sin of science, which leads to an inevitable and dangerous disconnection from social and natural contexts. The reality of practising science is far more complex. This semi-biographical account of the history and people involved with the conservation of the Western Swamp Tortoise is intended to give a lively sense of science-in-action. Using a reflective essay style, it explores the story of the captive breeding of Pseudemydura umbrina within the social context of science, and includes a discussion of relevant ethical and political issues. It is therefore relevant to researchers interested in zoology, sociology of science, history of science, philosophy of science and ecocritical literature.

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