The RSPCA received more than 560 calls about exotic animals last year in Essex, new figures have revealed.

Members of the public across the county contacted the charity about an exotic animal 567 times in 2018 - a rise of 525 from 2017.

In England and Wales, the charity received more than 15,000 calls about exotic animals, more than 40 a day, or more than one every hour.

The revelation comes after surprised Basildon resident Naomi Burdett discovered a rat snake in her toilet in February.

‘Kevin’ had been dyed a slight tinge of blue from cleaning products used in the toilet but has since been reunited with his happy owner.

At the time, she said: “My partner discovered the snake after hearing the candle smash, he saw the snake which hissed at him then backed away into the toilet.

“He ran upstairs in a moment of panic, neither of us are the biggest fans of snakes and it’s not exactly what you expect to see in your downstairs loo!

“My sister-in-law was close by and was able to come round and help us contain him - we named him Kevin - and fortunately the RSPCA was then able to take him away to specialist care.

RSPCA experts believe not enough exotic pet owners research their needs using expert sources and do not understand the type and amount of care that they need, resulting in them escaping, being abandoned or neglected.

Joe White, RSPCA exotics officer, 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.

“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.”