Department of Conservation Te Anau staff are "devastated" after a much-loved gecko at the local visitor centre was taken.

Graham, a Marlborough green gecko, had been in his terrarium at the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre for 30 years.

Staff noticed he was gone on Wednesday. The padlock to his terrarium was missing and marks on the latch pointed toward it having been forced or cut.

Doc operations manager (Te Anau) Greg Lind said it was distressing to think the gecko, that had lived in one place all its life, might be subjected to uncomfortable experiences.

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"The gecko has a distinctive grey mark on its head and would be easily identified. It's our longest serving advocacy animal in Fiordland, and staff just want it back safe.

"It has outlived another gecko which used to share its terrarium.

"The police have been notified, and we are asking everyone to keep their eyes open."

The terrarium is near the entrance to the visitor centre in Southland and was refreshed with food and leaves mid-afternoon on 16 July.

When the ranger returned three days later, the padlock had been removed and the gecko was missing, Mr Lind said.

Senior ranger Kate Hebblethwaite said staff were "just devastated" by the apparent theft.

"I am not sure what would possess someone to do something like this."

The Marlborough green gecko, also known as the manuka gecko, is endemic to New Zealand. It can grow up to 70mm long and is classified as an At Risk species.

• Anyone with information about the missing gecko should contact Te Anau police or the Te Anau Doc office (03) 249-0200.