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Peggy and Molly: Woman behind viral magpie Instagram account breaks silence after bird seized

Juliette Wells says she's 'devastated' Molly the magpie has been seized, but wildlife authorities have held firm on their position.

An Australian woman who gained hundreds of thousands of followers while documenting the relationship between her pet staffy Peggy and magpie Molly that she rescued as a chick has broken her silence after wildlife authorities seized the bird.

Queensland couple Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen say they rescued Molly the magpie when the bird was a chick in 2021, sharing on social media they found the animal injured on the street and was unable to reunite it with its family. The duo became famous online in the ensuing years for the bird's relationship with the couple's pet dog Peggy — with Juliette even having a book published about them.

Amassing over 700,000 followers on Instagram, the couple posted videos of Molly's interactions with Peggy, showing the bird and and the dog playing together in daily updates.

Juliette Wells on Instagram with Molly and Peggy.
Juliette Wells said she's 'devastated' after wildlife officials seized Molly the magpie from her care. Source: Instagram

Aussie couple 'devastated' after Molly the magpie seized

Fans have described the relationship between Molly, Peggy and Ruby as "just magic" and "very special", but on Monday Yahoo exclusively revealed Queensland wildlife officials had seized the bird at the beginning of the month, after it was revealed Wells and Mortensen had no permit to keep it at their home.

In a video statement posted overnight, the duo broke their silence after surrendering the bird.

"The Department of Environmental Science turned up on our door on the thirteenth of June wanting us to surrender Molly," Wells said. "We refused as he was thriving in the trees surrounding our property, and had been accepted here, and after long discussions they left and we thought everything was OK.

"We are devastated to give you this news."

Internet sensation Molly the magpie has been voluntarily surrendered, pictured here.
Internet sensation Molly the magpie has been voluntarily surrendered. Source: Instagram

"We did everything in our power to work with the department, including training, and also me obtaining my wildlife licence, which, after a period of time I had to retract...as it was a bit of a conflict to our page, " Mortensen continued. The couple then went on to implore their fans to write into the environment department to help them "return Molly home".

Wildlife authorities step in after bird goes viral on social media

Queensland authorities do not permit such interactions between wildlife and because they say it can lead to lifelong behavioural issues, and hamper the bird's ability to be successfully released into the wild.

When Yahoo News Australia first contacted Juliette about the issue in February, she denied the bird was being “kept” in captivity, and didn't initially think a licence was required.

"We don’t 'care' for him in the way people have cockatoos or parrots in cages. Once he was well enough we taught him how to forage for food in the garden, we taught him to fly and be independent,” she said in a statement via a publicist.

Juliette Wells on Instagram with Molly and Peggy.
Juliette Wells with Peggy and Molly the magpie who have been featured in a book and on television. Source: Instagram

And when it comes to the interactions between the wild bird and her dogs, Juliette claims Peggy simply took on a "nurturer role” and bonded with Molly "naturally". "I am a creator (and) was just capturing precious moments in time because it made people happy and I wanted to share the joy we got from watching their relationship develop," she said.

Magpie 'taken unlawfully', officials say

On Monday, Queensland's Department of Science, Environment and Innovation (DESI) confirmed a magpie had been “voluntarily surrendered” to its staff on March 1.

"It is alleged that the bird was taken from the wild and kept unlawfully, with no permit, licence or authority being issued by DESI," it said. "All Queensland native animals are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. To keep a native animal that originates from the wild, a person must have a permit, licence or authority to lawfully have the animal in their possession."

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