Spaniards were infuriated in April last year when it was revealed that their King, Juan Carlos, had hunted elephants in Botswana. The Spanish press played the incident as a controversy over the fact that the king took such an expensive hunting trip at a time when the country was in dire economic straits.

Juan Carlos and hunter Jeff Rann. (Photo: Target Press/Barcroft Media)

    Juan Carlos quickly issued a public apology. “I am very sorry,” he told TV cameras. “I made a mistake and it won’t happen again.”
    File this under “The 5 percent who never seem to get the news.”

      Why anyone would shoot an elephant for fun amidst Africa’s devastating epidemic of elephant poaching is disconcerting. But the story became even more disturbing when it was reported that the monarch was the honorary president of Spain’s branch of the World Wildlife Fund–WWF Espana.

      Along with South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, Botswana is one of the African nations that has not prohibited elephant hunting. Regulated with quotas and licenses, the activity is a vital source of income for Africa’s national parks. Hunters pay between 7,000 and 20,000 euros for each trophy.

      In addition to the government fees, shoots with Rann Safaris, the business that outfitted the king, cost upwards of $8,700 a week, with an elephant costing a further $15,000 to kill. The aid of professional hunter Jeff Rann costs an extra $2,000 a day.

      When asked to comment on the king’s hunt, Rann said, “You have to manage the world’s animal populations to their betterment. We are trying to improve their habitat.”

      If the king has ever offered his justification for killing an elephant for fun in this day and age, it has not made its way into print.

    As the story gained momentum, reporting turned to the king’s lifelong obsession with hunting.

The king and Jeff Rann with buffalos. (Photo: Target Press/Barcroft Media)

Trophy bear Mitrofan.

      It was reported in the Kommersant newspaper in Russia in 2006 that the king took part in a bear “hunt” involving a “kind and cheerful” 4 year-old bear named Mitrofan, who had been living in captivity since it was a cub, and was part of a tourist attraction in the town of Noviens. The bear was put in a cage and given “vodka mixed with honey.” The king is said to have “taken him down with one shot.”
    Several months after the king’s elephant hunt story broke, WWF in Spain removed Juan Carlos as its honorary president. In a statement the group said “the safari did not sit well with WWF goals.”
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