WWF fires Spain king over elephant hunt

Jul 23, 2012, 07:42 IST | Agencies

King Juan Carlos has been removed as honorary president after severe criticism of his elephant hunting trip to Botswana earlier this year

The Spanish branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says it stripped the King of his position because his participation in the hunting safari was incompatible with the group’s goal of conserving endangered species.

Although the King had long been known to be a hunter, he normally kept a low profile during such trips. But his visit to Botswana came to light because he broke his hip and had to be evacuated to Spain for emergency replacement surgery.

Picture imperfect: This picture of the King posing with a rifle in front of a dead elephant fanned criticism for his leading such an ostentatious lifestyle at a time when one in four Spaniards are out of work

Shortly afterwards, newspapers published a publicity photograph for a safari company in which the King was seen, posing with a rifle in front of a dead elephant. The picture fanned criticism for his leading such an ostentatious lifestyle at a time when one in four Spaniards are out of work.

In the hue and cry that followed, the 74-year-old King was forced to apologise and a nationwide petition was launched calling for him to step down from his role in the group, which he helped to found in Spain in 1968. At an extraordinary general meeting of the group held in Madrid on Saturday, 94 per cent of members present voted to remove him.

“Although this type of hunting is legal and regulated, it has been deemed incompatible by many members with the honorary presidency of an international organisation that defends wildlife and the environment like WWF,” WWF Spain said in a statement. The reproach to the King, who is widely credited with steering his country from dictatorship to democracy, is unprecedented, but follows a series of dents to the image of the Spanishroyal family.

Juan Carlos is best remembered in Spain for having donned his Commander-in-Chief’s uniform and gone live on television in 1981 to condemn an attempted coup by right-wing army officers. He was crowned King days after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and oversaw Spain’s transition to a modern European democracy from the dictatorship he had inherited. 

Royal pay cut
Last week the royal family announced it had trimmed Euro 100,000 from its annual budget of Euro 8.3 million after angry street protests erupted across Spain in response to the Euro 65 billion austerity programme planned by the government. The king will lose Euro 20,900 from his salary of just over Euro 292,000 for the year — a cut of 7.1%. 

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