An African elephant has been likened to a "young Picasso" after developing a flair for painting in Worcestershire.

Sixteen-year-old Five happily spends her days at West Midland Safari Park in Bewdley, creating bold and colourful abstract pieces, zoo keepers say.

The elephant, who holds the paintbrush with her trunk, has completed more than 50 works of art since taking up the hobby two years ago.

Bob Lawrence, the park's director of wildlife, stressed that Five had not been pushed into her artistic career.

Mr Lawrence said: "Every morning after the others had their baths, we put hoof oil on their toe-nails with a paint-brush and one morning she picked the brush up herself and decided to have a go.

"We thought we would extend that and we put an easel in front of her with a canvas and a selection of brushes to paint.
"She took to painting like a duck to water."

Five's works sell for between £50 and £100 and can be ordered in several colours from the parkland site, which was visited by landscape artist John Constable around 200 years ago.

"I don't think he could ever possibly have dreamt that 200 years later, an elephant would be following in his footsteps," Mr Lawrence said. 

Cas Soper, spokesman for Destination Worcestershire, said: "Her thoughtful pieces have already attracted critical acclaim from art aficionados the world over.

"Mostly abstract, her colourful work has been likened to that of the young Picasso as she works in vibrant colours using bold strokes."

Today a couple became Five's first live "sitters", posing for a unique portrait.

Lottie and Adam Smith, from Worcester, won the opportunity to be painted by the elephant in a Destination Worcestershire competition.

Five is one of three African Elephants re-homed at West Midland Safari Park from a private elephant orphanage in South Africa in 1998.