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Painting whales water-colours

He works mostly in watercolours of course - and now Xiao Qiang the Beluga whale is making a woldwide splash as an artist.

Keepers in the Qingdao Polar Ocean World in eastern China say he started out when he simply grabbed a paint brush left behind buy a visitor and started playing with it.

Not that he's one to fish for compliments, but the seven year old star's paintings are changing hands for hundreds of pounds among fans.

"He showed a lot of interest in painting right from the start so now all we have to do is give him the brushes and hold the paper while he paints with his mouth," said trainer Zhang Yong.

"His favourite colour seems to be blue and he's best of all at seascapes. His people always look like seals," he added.

Experts say that dolphin-like Belugas - known as the sea canary because of their high pitched squeaks and twitters - have more soft tissue around their mouths than other whales which allows Xiao Qiang to manipulate a brush.

Trainers say the star puts his art and sole into his work to make it the absolute Pollocks - thanks to rewards of extra fish.

"He enjoys what he does and this turning of the head to paint is a natural movement that these whales perform in the wild when they are cleaning their food of sand.

"They are brighter than other whales and he loves to play jokes on his keepers. Sometimes he deliberately paints them instead of the paper," said Yong.

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