Molly the magpie saga could spark big change as government admits 'lessons learned'

A new category of licence could make it possible for Queenslanders to care for native animals and birds that can't live in the wild.

Wildlife laws could be overhauled in one Aussie state after the saga of Molly the magpie sparked a national uproar. A review of nature laws could allow Queenslanders to acquire licences to care for native animals that are deemed “unsuitable” to be returned to the wild.

Queensland’s Environment Minister Leanne Linard confirmed with Yahoo News she had asked her department’s Director General to undertake an eight-week review of the Code of Practice that governs the care of injured, sick and orphaned animals.

“As the current Code of Practice has been in place for more than three years, and its operation has been tested in that period, it is [time] for a detailed review to consider its effectiveness, useability and completeness. In particular, lessons learnt from recent cases will be considered as part of the review,” she said.

Premier Steven Miles beams as he allows Molly the magpie to perch on his shoulder. Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen stand beside him with their dogs.
Premier Steven Miles beams as he allows Molly the magpie to perch on his shoulder. Source: Peggy and Molly

Molly was taken from a Gold Coast couple because the Department of Environment (DESI) determined it was unsuitable to live as a wild bird because it was “highly habituated” to humans and likely had “developmental issues”. With the Peggy and Molly accounts attracting a following of over two million people across Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, there was never any thought the bird would be euthanised and plans were made to place it in a sanctuary.

But the case uncovered a separate instance of birds that weren’t so lucky. This involved a native white raven and exotic eclectus parrot that had been cared for by Twinnies Pelican and Seabird Rescue for five years, which were surrendered due to a paperwork error and then destroyed by DESI on advice from vets.

Jason Hunt (right) and Leanne Linard (left) sitting at a table and looking at a document.
Jason Hunt (right) asked Leanne Linard (left) to review Queensland's environment laws. Source: Jason Hunt/Facebook

The Twinnies case resulted in their local member Jason Hunt rushing to their house to break the heartbreaking news, and he then wrote to Linard asking her to intervene.

“With the recent cases of Molly the Magpie and the white crow and eclectus parrot cared for by Twinnies Pelican and Seabird Rescue, and following representations made by the Member for Caloundra, I asked the Director-General of my Department to undertake a review into the settings for the care of injured, sick and orphaned animals under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and associated regulations and the Code of Practice,” Linard said.

“The Director-General has proposed that Queensland’s Chief Scientist undertake the review, supported by a panel of experts to provide a range of scientific input into the process.”

While Molly the magpie's followers were overjoyed by its return, many wildlife rescuers have been concerned Premier Steven Mile's intervention could lead Aussies to believe its okay to take magpies home and raise them with dogs.

Linard said her review will focus on three aspects of the Code of Practice which include:

  • The regulatory framework as it relates to the care of injured, sick and orphaned wildlife,

  • The effectiveness, useability and completeness of the Code of Practice for injured, sick and orphaned animals, and

  • The case for a new class of carer's licence for animals that are unsuitable to be rehabilitated and returned to the wild, but might otherwise be healthy.

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