Australia debates seizure of Insta-famous magpie

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Peggy the dog and Molly the magpieImage source, @peggyandmolly

An Australian state premier has backed a campaign to return an Instagram-famous magpie to its human carers after it was seized by wildlife authorities.

The bird, dubbed Molly, was rescued as a chick by a Queensland couple and formed an unlikely bond with their bull terrier, Peggy.

More than two million people follow a “Peggy and Molly” profile online.

Queensland’s leader Steven Miles says Molly should be reunited with the family, contradicting state officials.

“I think sometimes common sense needs to prevail… and if you look at the story, there is a better outcome possible,” Mr Miles said on Thursday.

In an emotional video, Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen announced they had “surrendered” Molly to Queensland’s environment department earlier in the week, because of a “small group of people constantly complaining” about the animal being in their care.

“We are asking why a wild magpie can’t decide for himself where he wants to live and who he wants to spend his time with?” the couple said in a post online.

More than 50,000 fans have signed a petition to reconcile the “bonded animals” who have appeared together in videos for four years. One cited Molly’s imitations of a dog barking as proof it was “her family”.

The state’s Department of Environment, Science and Innovation (Desi) said it acknowledged the “community interest in Molly”, but warned that magpies were not domestic animals and should only ever be housed temporarily for the purpose of “rehabilitation”.

“The magpie is currently under the care of Desi. Unfortunately, it has been highly habituated to human contact and is not capable of being released back into the wild,” a spokesperson said.

Ms Wells and Mr Mortensen have signalled they will continue their campaign, arguing that Molly would have faced “certain death” had it not been housed.

Australian magpies – which can live up to 30 years – are a protected native species and are considered vital to the nation’s ecosystem.

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