Peggy and Molly: Petition calls for Australian authorities to return Instagram star bird to rescuers


Tens of thousands of Australians have signed a petition calling for wildlife officials to give back Molly the magpie, one half of a dog-and-bird duo made famous on Instagram.

Molly was seized from a Queensland family over allegations she was being “kept unlawfully” with “no permit, licence or authority”. Magpies are a protected wild species in Australia and play an important role in the ecosystem.

Molly became famous on the internet after she was rescued as a chick by Gold Coast locals Juliette Wells and her partner Reece Mortensen.

The magpie chick had fallen from its nest in 2020 and the couple say she would have faced “certain death” if they had not intervened and hand-reared her.

Molly struck up a friendship with the couple’s Staffordshire bull terrier Peggy, and an Instagram page they created to document the “real-life Winnie the Pooh and Piglet story” now has over 729,000 followers. Wells authored a book about the duo entitled Peggy and Molly – matching their Instagram handle – which was published by Penguin Australia in November.

Queensland’s premier has joined tens of thousands of members of the public in an appeal to return an Instagram-famous magpie seized by wildlife officials to its dog best friend and the family that rescued the bird as a chick.

However, in an emotional video posted on Tuesday, Wells and Mortensen announced that Molly had to be surrendered to the Queensland Department of Science and Innovation (DESI), as “we had a small group of people constantly complaining to them”. They revealed that Molly was handed to the authorities on 1 March.

A spokesperson for the DESI said in a statement Molly had been “illegally” taken from the wild.

“Animals in rehabilitation must not associate with domestic animals due to the potential for them to be subjected to stress and the risks of behavioural imprinting and transmission of diseases,” the statement added.

“Animals from the wild, must stay wild”.

The couple insists Molly has never been caged or forced to stay inside, and that Molly chose to stay with them. They have called on followers to join them in asking the authorities to reconsider the case, and a petition online requesting the DESI reunite Peggy and Molly has almost 70,000 signatures.

In their statement on Tuesday they said Molly was handed over to the authorities back on 1 March.

“We did everything in our power to work with the department, including training and also me obtaining my wildlife permit, which, after a period of time, I had to retract my application, as it was a bit of a conflict to our page,” Mortensen said.

Their campaign to have Molly returned received a boost on Wednesday from Queensland’s premier Steven Miles, who said he supported the campaign and encouraged the department to work with the couple.

“I gotta say, I’ve got some sympathy for people supporting Molly the magpie,” Mr Miles said.

“I know our environment department, I used to be their minister. I know they take their responsibilities under the law very seriously. But I think in these circumstances, there’s room for some flexibility. I just urge them to work with Molly’s carers to get the necessary wildlife carer training so that she can get back home.”

The DESI spokesperson said the magpie was under its care but could not be released back into the wild as it had been “highly habituated to human contact”.

DESI also addressed the fact that the couple helped nurse Molly back to health, but that “animals that are sick, orphaned or injured must go to a person who holds a valid rehabilitation permit, which are issued to people who have demonstrated skills, knowledge and experience dealing with and caring for native animals”.

“The purpose of rehabilitating native wildlife is to provide care so that the animal can be released back to the wild.”

The statement said Molly would have to be housed in a state facility, where she will most likely live out her remaining days – Australian magpies have been known to live up to 30 years.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *