A SELF-taught artist who got the sack from Dudley Zoo has returned more than 50 years later for a VIP visit.

Rama Samaraweera, known as Sam, was invited back to the zoo after he sent bosses three original oil paintings to make amends for "not being the best ever zoo keeper".

The 89-year-old was dismissed in 1962 for spending too much time sketching animals rather than caring for them.

But 53 years on, he was thrilled to be asked back as a special guest and was delighted to see his paintings of an elephant, snow leopard and cheetah on display in the Discovery Centre.

The Birmingham-born artist, who paints every day at the studio attached to his mid-Wales home, even brought along a fourth piece of art on the day which he had created especially for the visit.

Stourbridge News: Sam shows his latest painting to zoo director Derek GroveSam shows his latest painting to zoo director Derek Grove

Sam shows his latest painting to zoo director Derek Grove


Sam said: “It was wonderful getting a tour of the zoo which I describe as my only art school. I also helped feed the giraffes and was treated like a VIP, despite being given the sack all those years ago.

“I was pleased to see more keepers and a lot more health and safety, compared to the 1960s. In my day you were meant to just get on with your job and talking to visitors back then was frowned upon.”

Zoo director Derek Grove, added: "It was wonderful to meet Sam and to be able to thank him in person for the three paintings and the additional tiger artwork he brought with him.

“Sam was very interested in how the zoo had changed over the years and to learn more about the important conservation work we do.”

Stourbridge News:

Sam chats to Dudley Zoo's Jay Haywood as his 11-year-old great nephew, Archie Brooks, and great niece, seven-year-old Tia Brooks, help feed the giraffes