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Elephants 'salute' Olympic torch

The Olympic torch has been "saluted" by two flag-waving elephants at a safari park after the flame was transported aboard a train for the first time.

On the sixth day of its national tour, the torch was hailed by the African elephants as it was held aloft on the footplate of a Severn Valley Railway locomotive passing their enclosure.

Carrying local schoolchildren, the eight-carriage steam train paused for about five minutes at the perimeter of West Midland Safari Park as the torch was transported from Bewdley to Kidderminster.

The elephants' unusual "trunk tribute" - which followed a fortnight of intensive training - was organised by Bob Lawrence, director of wildlife at the 195-acre park.

One of the elephants, named Five, used her trunk to wave a Union flag as the train, hauled by the Erlestoke Manor locomotive, came to a halt.

Mr Lawrence said: "The trains go by all the time but we have never really co-ordinated anything like this and it seemed a good way of breaking our duck."

Five and fellow elephant Latabe, aged 20 and 19 respectively, had practised for the event for the past two weeks when trains stopped alongside the park.

Asked if the training had been difficult, Mr Lawrence replied: "The elephants do seem to enjoy learning new tricks - at the end of the day if a three-and-a-half-tonne elephant doesn't want to do something, you would have a job to make it."

Before letting the train take the strain, the relay had passed through Hereford, Leominster, Ludlow and Cleobury Mortimer, after setting off from Gloucester.

Tens of thousands of well-wishers again welcomed the flame, including an estimated crowd of 15,000 in Hereford.

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