DOZENS of exotic animals were rescued in Berkshire last year due to being neglected or abandoned.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) received more than 160 calls of this nature last year.

Calls to the 24-hour cruelty hotline increased by 13 per cent from 2017.

In June 2018, RSPCA inspector Sharon Chrisp was called to a trading estate in Hungerford where a lizard was found after falling out of a cloth bag containing pillows from India.

During the same month, two parakeets were discovered after they were abandoned in a cage in Reading in a residential street.

Stephanie Jayson, RSPCA’s senior scientific officer in exotics, said: “Although their numbers are small compared to more common pets, we have real concerns about the welfare of reptiles and other exotic animals kept as pets in this country.

“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.

Top rescued exotic animals in 2018:

  • Fish (including aquarium and pond fish) - 1,690
  • Reptiles (including lizards, snakes, turtles and tortoises) - 1,426
  • Birds (including parrots, finches, birds of prey and others) - 1,378
  • Invertebrates (including spiders, scorpions, snails and others) - 48
  • Mammals (including raccoon dogs, raccoons, meerkats, African pygmy hedgehogs and others) - 38
  • Amphibians (including frogs, toads and salamanders) - 15

"Some species can grow very large, live for a long time or require a licence or paperwork to be legally kept or sold. Many of the animals we’re called to help are found stray outside, where they can very quickly suffer in the cold."

The RSPCA, which has a team of specially trained exotics officers, rescued more than 4,000 exotic animals in 2018, including more than 500 snakes, more than 300 turtles, 145 bearded dragons, five raccoon dogs and even four marmosets and one wallaby.

Stephanie continued: “It is heartbreaking to see animals like this found injured or suffering as they are stray or abandoned outside in inappropriate temperatures.

"Some of the animals we see, like monkeys and raccoon dogs, have no place in the home and we would urge people not to take them on as pets.

"Others are still a long-term commitment and need specialist care and equipment so we urge anyone considering taking them on to fully research their needs using expert sources, only consider keeping one if they can ensure they are fully able to provide for these needs and consider rescuing rather than buying.”