Australia reunites magpie and dog after uproar

Under state law, magpies and other protected wildlife can only be cared for by people with a licence to show they have the needed skills.

15 Apr 2024 03:31pm
Peggy and Molly. Photo: Social media
Peggy and Molly. Photo: Social media
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SYDNEY - Australian authorities on Monday issued a licence allowing a magpie called Molly to reunite with a pet dog, after sparking public outrage by keeping the unlikely friends apart.

A Queensland couple's pictures of the bird cozying up with their Staffordshire bull terrier Peggy drew an audience of hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram.

But the Gold Coast couple, who took the magpie in as a nestling in 2020, had to surrender the bird more than six weeks ago to the Queensland department of environment, science and innovation.

Under state law, magpies and other protected wildlife can only be cared for by people with a licence to show they have the needed skills.

The couple's Instagram page was deluged with outraged reactions to the separation, and an online petition titled "Don't Break Their 4-Year Bond" garnered more than 150,000 signatures.

Now, the department says it has issued a "specialised licence" to the couple, Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen, after they agreed to undergo wildlife carer training and make no commercial gain from the bird or its image.

The bird was returned home, it said.

Veterinary experts had advised that the magpie "can never be rehabilitated or returned to the wild", it said in a statement.

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The decision followed an intervention by Queensland's premier, Stephen Miles, after the animal mates were separated.

Miles vowed that the state would work with the couple so Molly could be reunited with her family, saying "common sense needs to prevail".

Announcing Molly's impending homecoming last week, the state premier wrote on X: "I would like to thank everyone who has written to me to share their concerns and advocate for Molly's return." - AFP

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