Spain’s King Juan Carlos is facing criticism from the World Wildlife Fund and the Spanish people for a legal hunting trip in Botswana in which he harvested an elephant and other exotic animals. The hunting trip was brought to the public eye because of the updates on the 74-year-old monarch’s medical condition after he tripped, fell and broke his right hip that led to a hip-replacement operation.
Normally, Spanish newspapers would dance lightly around any controversial issue surrounding the king, but because of his fall in a Botswana park, newspapers found and posted a photo of him posing in front of a dead elephant on their pages. The photograph was first posted on Rann Safaris along with photos of the king standing in front of two dead water buffaloes. The photos have since been removed.
His medical condition was overshadowed by criticism from the Spanish people because of what was reported as an expensive hunting trip at a time when Spain is reeling from economic recession and a potential default on its debts. The Guardian quoted the rates of the safari as being upwards of $8,700 a week, with a further $15,000 for elephants and about $2,000 per day to hunt with Jeff Rann.
A petition on the online forum Actuable had more than 48,000 signatures for him to step down as the honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) at the time of publication. In a twitter message, the WWF said it “will make comments to the royal palace and reiterate its commitment to the conservation of elephants.”
Though Spaniards are commonly considered to be respectful of their king and his unique role in Spanish government and the nation’s transition to democracy in the late 70s and early 80s, King Juan Carlos has had his fair share of gun and hunting controversies. Just days before the king’s hospitalization, his grandson Frolian Marichalar, 13, shot himself in the foot while hunting in Spain. Marichalar was also hospitalized. The Guardian reported that doctors had to remove “the contents of a 36-calibre [.410] shotgun cartridge from his foot.” Six years ago, officials dismissed allegations that King Juan Carlos had shot a drunken bear in Russia. Perhaps most notably, the king’s brother died from a gunshot wound to his head in 1956, said to be from an accidental discharge that occurred while Juan Carlos was cleaning a revolver.
Editor’s Note (4-18-12): King Juan Carlos has issued an apology which can be found below.