Spain’s King Juan Carlos faces overwhelming public scorn following an extravagant elephant hunting trip to Botswana earlier this month. Juan Carlos, an honorary president of World Wildlife Spain, had his private trip publicized when he was flown back to Madrid for medical attention after reportedly slipping and fracturing his hip.
Hundreds of thousands voiced their condemnation of Juan Carlos’ hunting extravaganza through social media and online petitions demanding his resignation as honorary president of World Wildlife Fund Spain, a position he has held since 1968. Animal activists protested outside the hospital treating the king on Tuesday, toting signs featuring pictures of elephants and slogans such as “ban hunting” and “victims of the royal hunt.”
The King’s passion for hunting has long been known and his list of kills includes an endangered bison on a trip to Poland in 2004 as well as water buffalo. Pictures previously posted on Botswana based big game hunting company Rann Safari’s webpage showed the king posing beside a dead elephant and water buffalo from a previous trip.
In response to the public outcry, World Wildlife Fund Spain has announced it will be taking necessary steps to remove King Juan Carlos as a patron of their charity, despite his taste for hunting having no conflict with their ideals.
“It’s a problem of the image it sends nationally and internationally rather than the issue of elephant conservation in Botswana,” states Juan Carlos del Olmo, secretary general of World Wildlife Fund Spain.
World Wildlife Funds’ dedication to the conservation of species differs greatly from animal welfare groups commitment to the protection of animals against suffering, as is evident in WWF Canada’s approval of harp seal hunting.
“Conservation groups are concerned with conserving animals for specific purposes and mainly for human use,” Jane Dollinger, PETA Spokesman, tells Bikya Masr. “Conservation groups are supported by hunters; they promote hunt culls to artificially reduce an animal population, which frees up available resources and causes animals’ breeding to increase, thereby increasing the population over time and ensuring that the species will always be there for humans to hunt.”
“Left alone, animal populations regulate their own numbers based on the availability of food and a secure habitat.”
Following his surgery King Juan Carlos issued a televised apology for his actions, an unprecedented event in the history of the Spanish crown.
“I am very sorry,” he said, “I made a mistake and it won’t happen again.”
The King’s recovery is reportedly going well and he is expected to be able to resume office duties in approximately 10 days.