THE RSPCA has received almost 500 calls about neglected, abandoned and stray exotic animals in Hampshire in the past year, new figures have revealed.

The UK animal welfare charity released its annual statistics yesterday, which revealed a total of 490 calls regarding unusual animals in the county.

Last year, the number of calls to the RSPCA increased by 13% when compared with 2017 making a total of 1,175,193 calls to its 24-hour cruelty hotline.

The charity received around 15,790 calls about exotic animals last year, which works out at more than 40 a day.

In May 2018, a three-year- old emu named Elvis was given a helping hand by the animal welfare charity in Hampshire.

RSPCA exotics officer Phil Hamilton said: “Elvis was originally purchased on eBay as a fertile egg and was hatched by his previous owner.

“Elvis was taken in by a new owner to live with his chickens in his small, back garden.

“The bird has been strongly imprinted on humans, having never seen another emu.”

The RSPCA was contacted by a member of the public who was concerned about the bird’s welfare.

Specialist animal collection officer (ACO) Hamilton and ACO Darren Woodroof visited the property – on the edge of the New Forest – and spoke with the owner who agreed it would be better for Elvis to be rehomed.

ACO Hamilton added: “Access to the garden was difficult and we had to be extremely careful loading him as we didn’t want him to escape onto the housing estate.

“However, we managed to load him onto the horsebox and we transferred him to his new home where he is now living with a female emu called Cilla.

“Both birds instinctively ran to each other and are now doing really well together. It was lovely to see.”

The RSPCA rescued more than 4,000 exotic animals in 2018, including more than 500 snakes, 300 turtles, 145 bearded dragons, five raccoon dogs, four marmosets and one wallaby.

Stephanie Jayson, RSPCA’s senior scientific officer in exotics and qualified exotics vet, 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.”