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Abandoned snakes and runaway rheas keep RSPCA officers on their toes

PUBLISHED: 13:38 25 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:38 25 April 2019

The rhea, pictured, was found uninvited in a garden in Colchester in 2018 Picture: RSPCA

The rhea, pictured, was found uninvited in a garden in Colchester in 2018 Picture: RSPCA

Archant

Alarmed residents made more than 750 calls to the RSPCA last year to report concerns about exotic animals in Suffolk and Essex.

Two snakes were abandoned at Christchurch park and handed in to police in Ipswich. Picture: IPSWICH CENTRAL POLICETwo snakes were abandoned at Christchurch park and handed in to police in Ipswich. Picture: IPSWICH CENTRAL POLICE

Officers were called out to deal with everything from a stray rhea roaming around Colchester to an oriental garden lizard found in a shipping container at the Port of Felixstowe.

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In their annual report, the animal charity said there were 215 calls to exotic animals incidents in Suffolk in 2018, and 567 in Essex.

More recently they were called to Christchurch park, Ipswich after a pair of boa constrictors were found.

Exotic animals applies to all untamed creatures - from snakes and lizards to racoon dogs and African pygmy hedgehogs, above Picture: RSPCAExotic animals applies to all untamed creatures - from snakes and lizards to racoon dogs and African pygmy hedgehogs, above Picture: RSPCA

The call came on April 17 and it was thought the snakes had been abandoned.

The snakes can grow up to 13 feet in length, with one pet store owner describing the decision to leave them in the park as “disgusting”.

A runaway rhea was discovered in a flowerbed in Colchester in November last year.

The large bird had entered in through an open side gate and it took a team of RSPCA staff and Colchester Zoo rangers to contain the rhea - a bird similar to an ostrich that can grow up to four feet in height - and hold it at the zoo until the owner could arrive.

Inspector Bennett said at the time: “The homeowner said that the rhea casually strolled into his garden and after having a look around, sat down and went to sleep in their flower bed. It must have been quite an unusual sight.

“We are so grateful to them for keeping the rhea safe in their garden until we could arrange to move the bird.

“As you can imagine catching and then transporting a rhea can be a little tricky so we were extremely grateful to the staff at Colchester Zoo who came out to collect the bird and kept the rhea until the owner got in touch.”

In December the RSPCA received a call to collect a rather unusual stowaway at the Port of Felixstowe - am oriental garden lizard who was found in a shipping container.

It is thought the lizard could have come all the way from China. He was taken to a specialist exotic centre which was able to provide him the specialist care he required.

The RSPCA rescued in excess of 4,000 exotic animals nationwide in 2018, including snakes, turtles, bearded dragons, raccoon dogs and even marmosets and a wallaby. Of those creatures, 79 were rescued in Suffolk.

Stephanie Jayson, RSPCA's senior scientific officer in exotics, said: “Reptiles and other exotic pets are completely reliant on their owners to meet their welfare needs including requiring the correct levels of heat, light and humidity, plus an appropriate diet.

“In some cases, we believe owners take them on simply because they believe they will be easier to care for than other pets, but it is essential that people research what is required in the care of their pet, including food, equipment, environment and vet care, before taking one on.”

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