The RSPCA is appealing for information after an African pygmy hedgehog was found wandering along a road in Chelmsford.

The hedgehog was found along Baddow Road, on Thursday, August 3 and taken into the RSPCA Essex Mid, Brentwood, Chelmsford and District Branch, who called RSPCA Animal Collection Officer Joe White to collect her.

The female adult hedgehog was later taken to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital.

When she was found she appeared to be in good health although she was overweight.

ACO White, said: “This was a unusual collection for me and the first time I have been called out for an African pygmy hedgehog. She was apparently spotted just walking down the road. I am not sure if she has got out from somewhere or if sadly she has been dumped intentionally.”

The RSPCA is concerned that the African pygmy hedgehog is one of Britain’s latest pet crazes, because this species, like many exotic animals, has very complex needs.

An African pygmy hedgehog’s natural habitat is the semi-arid areas of central Africa and in captivity it would therefore require a heated enclosure with a carefully-controlled temperature of between 24-30°C. Over 30°C the hedgehog is likely to suffer heat stroke, whilst temperatures lower than 18°C can induce torpor (a form of hibernation), which is not advisable in captive pygmy hedgehogs.

African pygmy hedgehogs are solitary, nocturnal animals and will not give the companionship of many domesticated pets. If you were to house two together it is likely that they will fight.

ACO White added: "These hedgehogs can travel large distances in the wild and anyone keeping one in captivity would need to allow for this natural behaviour, providing as large an enclosure as possible and space allow with plenty of hiding places and opportunity for digging, foraging and exercise.

"African pygmy hedgehogs have more specialist requirements than the more traditional domesticated pet animals, fundamentally linked to their natural environment in the wild. It is difficult to adequately meet the animal's needs in a household environment and, where these needs can't be met, the animal really should not be kept.

"If someone is looking for a pet we would urge them to consider adopting a more traditional animal like a cat or dog from a rehoming centre, after doing their homework and ensuring they can provide a lifelong loving home for that animal."

Anyone with any information about who may have owned the hedgehog should call the RSPCA’s inspector appeal line on 0300 123 8018 and leave a message.