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Taupo ambulance staff are appealing to an "idiot" to return keys he stole from an ambulance left running while staff attended a callout.

St John Ambulance Taupo operations team manager Graeme Harvey said staff were horrified at the act, which could well have put lives at risk.

Officers were at a medical job in Tobin Place when the keys were stolen.

They discovered the keys missing when they went to load the patient into the ambulance to take them to hospital.

Mr Harvey told The Rotorua Daily Post he hoped the thief would either anonymously let staff know where the keys had been dumped, or return them to the station.