Molly the Magpie returned to Queensland family: Government names conditions for return to family, Peggy and Molly

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A famous magpie is due to be reunited with a Queensland family after a long campaign – but his release comes with a small catch.

Australians have been captivated for weeks after Molly the Magpie was surrendered to the state government on March 1, following concerns its adopted family lacked the training to care for it.

The bird’s owners Gold Coast couple Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen have amassed more than 800,000 followers on the Instagram account dedicated to the magpies unlikely friendship with their pet staffy dog Peggy.

The family took the bird in as a nestling during 2020.

On Thursday, the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation announced the bird would be returned to the family after more than a month in their care, though with a few important conditions.

“Molly’s return hinges on the family applying for a licence and agreeing with a range of conditions that will ensure the best outcome for the animal’s ongoing health and wellbeing,” a DESI spokesperson said.

Some of the conditions for her return include:

  • No ongoing commercial gain from the bird or its image.
  • Undertaking wildlife carer training.
  • Advocating public education to encourage people to appropriately care for native wildlife and acknowledging the specialist skills required to care for and rehabilitate wildlife.
  • Ongoing engagement with DESI to ensure the bird is receiving adequate care and enrichment.

Molly will be returned once the couple have demonstrated that they can and will meet the conditions, the DESI spokesperson said.

In Queensland, magpies and other wildlife protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992, can only be cared for by licensed carers, who have demonstrated to the department that they have the skills necessary to provide the necessary specialist care.

The decision to return Molly was made with the guidance of an independent veterinary expert who determined the bird was “highly habituated” and may have “developmental issues”, meaning it could never be rehabilitated or returned to the wild.

The owners shared an update to their Instagram page on Thursday morning saying their “hearts are full of happiness” after talking with Queensland Premier Steven Miles.

“We want to thank Steven Miles for showing unity & humanity in taking this issue on,” the Instagram caption read.

“We will be speaking to the [department] today to finalise the next steps to bringing Molly home.”

They said they have had a “hole in our hearts that would never heal,” since Molly was surrendered to the government, and reflected on the public attention they have received as a result.

“We have become a meme, an interview question & the topic of conversation around the world,” the post said.

“We have be harassed, defamed & bullied by a small minority of people.”

However, they wanted to thank the community for their support and campaigning to help bring Molly home.

“We want to thank you the people for your voices, for standing by us & making this happen,” the post said.

It is not yet known when Molly will be returned.

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