Molly the magpie officially returned to Gold Coast family

The Insta-famous magpie was returned six weeks after a Gold Coast couple surrendered it to Queensland authorities.

Molly the magpie was returned to a Gold Coast couple on Monday morning, six weeks after they surrendered the bird to Queensland authorities. The wild bird, which has more than two million followers across YouTube, Instagram and Facebook is expected to be reunited with two domestic dogs Peggy and her pup Ruby.

The Department of Environment (DESI) said the bird was sent back after Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen agreed to several licensing demands including they cease making commercial gain from the bird or its image. The couple must also undertake wildlife carer training and ensure it receives “adequate care and enrichment”.

In a statement DESI said independent veterinary advice concluded the magpie could not be released to the wild because it is “highly habituated and may have developmental issues”. It said the bird was returned to Wells and Mortensen in line with the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Molly the magpie has been returned to a Gold Coast couple, more than six weeks after they surrendered it. Source: Peggyandmolly
Molly the magpie has been returned to a Gold Coast couple, more than six weeks after they surrendered it. Source: Peggyandmolly

Controversy after Molly the magpie surrender

The decision to return the bird follows an extraordinary intervention by Premier Steven Miles, who urged the department to find a “common sense” approach to its future. This act by Miles, who is a former environment minister, is understood to have angered many within DESI.

After Yahoo News Australia exclusively revealed Molly had been surrendered, Wells and Mortensen received widespread support across Australia and internationally, and more than 150,000 people signed a petition calling for the bird’s return.

Wildlife carers who had advocated for the bird to be surrendered because it was being exposed to domestic pets, subsequently were inundated with thousands of messages of abuse including death and rape threats. The Peggy and Molly account then urged its followers to be “kind” and not show “aggression”.

Wells and Mortensen took Molly home from a park in 2020 without a licene and shared photos of it interacting with their dogs to Instagram. They then built a loyal following across several social media platforms, opened an online store selling calendars, shirts and prints, and secured a book deal with Penguin Random House.

Yahoo understands that under the licensing agreement with DESI, there is no provision for income to be generated in connection with the keeping of the magpie. When it comes to existing commercial arrangements that may already be in place, the couple would be required to forego any future profits.

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