Molly the Magpie: Four new conditions for family as famous bird returns 'home'

Molly the magpie has become 'highly habituated' and could 'have developmental issues' so it cannot be returned to the wild.

A Gold Coast couple who brought a wild magpie home from a park and built the popular social media account Peggy and Molly, showing it interacting with their pet dogs, will have to comply with a series of new conditions if the bird is returned to them.

The account had over two million subscribers across YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, when the Department of Environment (DESI) asked its creators Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen to surrender the bird on March 1, alleging at the time it had been taken “unlawfully”. But following a public outcry, a petition that amassed over 150,000 signatures, and an intervention from Queensland’s Premier Steven Miles, it was announced on Wednesday Molly the magpie would be returned.

On Thursday, DESI said in a statement the new conditions will “ensure the best outcome for the animal’s ongoing health and wellbeing”. “Independent expert veterinary advice has shown that Molly is highly habituated and may have developmental issues, meaning it can never be rehabilitated or returned to the wild,” it said.

Left - Peggy, Molly and Ruby in front of Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen. Right - Molly the magpie outside.
Gold Coast couple Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen will be asked to comply with a series of rules if Molly the magpie is returned to them. Source: Peggyandmolly

While DESI recommends animals being rehabilitated for a return to the wild should not be allowed to associate with domestic animals, it’s understood there will be no licensing regulations in place that will prevent Molly the magpie and Peggy the staffy from being reunited and being allowed to interact.

What are the new Peggy and Molly conditions?

Prior to the magpie’s surrender, the Peggy and Molly account had led to a successful six-figure GoFundMe drive, and a book deal with Penguin Random House. Under the new regulations, DESI says the couple will not be able to profit from Molly in future if the bird is returned.

The new rules the couple must abide by are:

  • 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.

“Once the individuals have demonstrated that they can and will meet the conditions, Molly will be placed with its former carers,” DESI said.

More on Peggy and Molly

Fans celebrate return of Molly the magpie

On Thursday, the Peggy and Molly account issued a statement on Instagram, thanking supporters for advocating for the magpie’s return. “Words can’t describe how grateful & moved we are to be sitting here writing this today,” it reads.

Fans of the page reacted with delight. "We can’t wait to see Molly back with his family!" one person wrote. "I’m trying to be patient for the day you post pictures of the reunion," another said.

It’s understood the decision to return Molly the magpie was made by the DESI Director-General, in accordance with the Nature Conservation Act, following “extensive legal advice”.

“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,” it said.

Will the Gold Coast couple agree to Magpie conditions?

When Molly was taken from the park, Wells said she didn’t realise a licence was required because the bird was living a wild existence.

Later Mortensen considered applying for a licence to care for Molly, but ultimately retracted his application. “It was a bit of a conflict to our page,” he said.

It remains unclear if the couple will agree to the new DESI conditions, but it appears the bird will likely be returned soon. “We will be speaking to the dept ( DESI ) today to finalise the next steps to bringing Molly home,” the Peggy and Molly account said on Thursday.

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