Staff at a South Auckland childcare centre are devastated after its oldest and friendliest sheep Mary was stolen over the weekend.
Mary was grazing in the front paddock beside the Southern Motorway at Karaka Learning Centre when she appears to have been picked up, dragged over two fences and pulled through a wire fence to a waiting car.
Centre manager Rachel Waterson said she was shocked and upset to turn up to work on Monday morning to find Mary was missing.
Police are investigating and discovered some of Mary's wool had caught on the two fences as the culprits appeared to drag her over, Waterson said. Part of a wire fence beside the motorway had also been cut to push the large animal through.
"They (offenders) would have been tired by then because she's huge. She's a big girl. She gets all the scraps from the children."
The vehicle appears to have driven along the gravel road between the motorway and the centre near where the Takanini road works is happening.
Waterson said the centre was feeling targeted. During the first two weekends in March the centre had its large sign vandalised and then one side of the centre was graffitied.
Footage from the previous weekend showed a van and white hatchback parked in the driveway beside the centre.
"We think there are definitely people coming back and scoping out the place."
But losing Mary was the final straw.
The centre had always kept animals and this was the first time in its 30 years it had been stolen.
Mary was the friendliest sheep and mother to three of the centre's four other sheep. She had distinctive black markings on her face. The centre also had a kunekune pig and Jersey cow in the same paddocks.
Waterson urged anyone with information about Mary to contact them with information as she was dreading breaking the news to the children.
"We haven't told the children, because we are just hoping she's coming back, because they go to a back paddock and things like that because we are just hoping that we don't need to and they don't notice.
"She's our leader because we've just got a cow and stuff like that, so when we move we get a bucket and go 'Mary' and she just follows us and all the animals follow her because she's the leader.
"With all the other stuff going on in the world we need good stuff. We don't need to be teaching children at 2 years old that somebody has come and taken our sheep with no explanation."
The centre has bolstered its security measures since the vandalism and thefts. Access to the driveways have been blocked, a security firm is now patrolling the centre and the fences in the paddock have also been raised.
Police were unable to respond prior to deadline.