Workers at the Pierrelatte crocodile farm in the Drôme département of southeastern France were faced with a sorry sight on Thursday morning.
Among the broken glass and forced locks was an empty space where one of their Komodo dragons used to live.
But a wet cloth left behind on the floor told zookeepers that this wasn't some kind of violent dragon escape to freedom.
“This is the work of an enthusiast, or at least someone who was acting on orders,” farm manager Samuel Martin told Le Parisien newspaper.
He said thieves would have used the cloth to put over the lizard's eyes in an effort to prevent it from panicking.
(Photo: Richard Cassan/Flickr)
The dragon, which weighed around 4.5 kilogrammes and measured 120 centimetres long, was the only reptile taken by the thieves, and was one of four on loan from the Barcelona Zoo where it was born in captivity.
A security guard at the farm was quick to raise the alarm, but police who arrived on the scene have so far been unable to track down any culprits.
Komodo dragons, also known as Komodo monitors, are the largest lizards in the world.
Zookeeper Samuel Martin said the lizards can grow to be three metres long and weigh up to 160 kilograms, “roughly the size of a crocodile”.