King Juan Carlos, honorary head of World Wildlife Fund/Spain, apologizes for shooting elephant

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2012:

MADRID–King Juan Carlos of Spain is for
the time being still honorary president of the
Spanish arm of the World Wildlife Fund, as he
has been since it was formed in 1968, but an
April 20, 2012 public apology for participating
in an ill-fated $60,000 elephant hunt in Botswana
did not quell calls for his ouster or
resignation–even from within the pro-hunting WWF.

“For a man used to pomp and papar-azzi,
Juan Carlos looked shaken, emerging from a
hospital in Madrid after hip surgery,” reported
Lauren Frayer of the National Public Radio
program Morning Edition.
“I’m very sorry,” Juan Carlos said. “I
made a mistake, and it won’t happen again.”
“Blinking into the cameras and leaning on
his crutches,” Frayer said, Juan Carlos faced
“extreme embarrassment. The Royal Palace
confirmed that this is the first time a Spanish
king has ever said he’s sorry-at least
publicly-for anything.”
Juan Carlos’ trophy hunt cost more than
twice the average Spanish annual wage, at a time
when unemployment has reached 24% in Spain. The
hunting expedition came to light only because
Juan Carlos fell at the Botswana hunting lodge,
breaking his hip in three places, and was
airlifted home, reportedly at taxpayer expense.
The hunt itself, according to the
Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo, turned out to
have been a present from Syrian magnate Mohamed
Eyad Kayali. Reportedly close to Saudi Arabian
defense minister Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz,
Mohamed Eyad Kayali was said to have helped a
Spanish consortium to win a contract to build a
high-speed rail link between Mecca and Medina.
The economic issues and the Syrian connection,
with massacres of civilians by the Bashar
al-Assad regime often in the news, were
irritants. Recreationally killing elephants was
the flashpoint for anger.
“Outrageous!” WWF Dutch office chief
Johan van den Gronden told the Radio Netherlands
Worldwide program Met het oog op morgen. “If
Juan Carlos were an honorary chairman of the
Dutch World Wide Fund of Nature,” Gronden
pledged, “and if I had the authority to do so,
I would have expelled him from his duties today.”
Article 6 of the WWF/Spain constitution
states that “The founder and honorary president
is Don Juan Carlos I.” The WWF/Spain governing
board on April 17, 2012 unanimously voted to ask
a general assembly of members to repeal the
clause. Earlier, said WWF/USA spokesperson Ian
Morrison, WWF/Spain secretary general Juan
Carlos del Olmo, “requested a meeting with the
royal authorities to share widespread public
concerns and public calls for His Majesty to step
down as honorary president.” King Juan Carlos
“has no direct involvement in the day-to-day
operations of WWF in Spain or elsewhere,”
Morrison added.
Olmo expressed “WWF’s profound discomfort
and concern at recent developments…which have
caused outrage against hunting elephants, even
in a legal and regulated environment.” Olmo
mentioned “many members who are applying to leave
WWF/Spain and tens of thousands of people who
have already used a variety of digital
platforms to demand that His Majesty the King not
continue holding the honorary
presidency of WWF/Spain.” Olmo concluded by
lamenting “the serious damage this outcry is
causing to the credibility of WWF.”
More than 46,000 people signed an online
petition asking King Juan Carlos to resign from
WWF. Socialist Party leader Tomas Gomez called
for the king to abdicate, too. “Spanish
newspapers have published pictures dating back to
2006 in which the king is seen standing with a
gun next to a dead elephant,” noted Tom
Burridge, Madrid correspondent for BBC News.
Also in 2006,” Burrdige recalled, “an official
in the Vologda region in northeastern Russia
alleged that Juan Carlos shot dead a tame bear
who had been plied with vodka.” But the times
and national mood in Spain have changed.
“In one fell swoop,” observed Daniel
Woolls of Associated Press, “King Juan Carlos
managed to unite right and left, young and old,
those with jobs and those without, in universal
outrage over his tone-deaf African hunting
safari–a trip that blasts a hole in the king’s
conservation credentials,” and “could raise
questions about why an alleged conservationist is
killing some of the most intelligent animals on
the planet.”
The king broke his hip only days after
his grandson, Froil├ín Marichalar, 13, “shot
himself in the foot while hunting in Spain,”
Guardian Madrid correspondent Gilles Tremlett
reported. “He also had to be hospitalized.
Doctors removed the contents of a 36-caliber
shotgun cartridge from his foot. Newspapers
reported that it was illegal for a 13-year-old to
handle that type of gun.” That accident recalled
the evening preceding Good Friday, 1956.
According to the official statement about what
happened, “His Highness the Prince Alfonso,”
14, “was cleaning a revolver with his brother,”
Juan Carlos, then 18. “A shot went off which
hit him in the forehead and killed him within a
few minutes.”

Looking into WWF links

Juan Carlos’ elephant hunting gaffe
caused Digital Journal contributor Elizabeth
Batt, of Coram, Montana, to look into other
aspects of the WWF leadership and agenda. “Having
donated to WWF, I was embarrassed,” Batt wrote.
“Looking further into other WWF associations, I
was disturbed to discover that WWF does not
oppose the Canadian seal hunt, a barbaric
practice if ever there was one.” Batt also
learned of relationships she found disturbing
involving WWF and SeaWorld; WWF and palm oil
plantation development in Indonesia that may
threaten the survival of wild orangutans; and
WWF involvement in a scheme which, according to
Jonathan Latham of Independent Science News,
allows rainforest logging if the cleared land is
used for organic agriculture.
Founded in 1961 by trophy hunter Sir
Peter Scott and friends, including captive
bird-shooters Prince Philip of Britain and Prince
Bernhardt of The Netherlands, whaler Aristotle
Onassis, and then-National Rifle Association
president C.R. “Pink” Gutermuth, WWF has a
history of problematic links.
Mobuto Sese Seko, who ruled the Congo
for nearly 30 years before his death in 1996,
was prominent within WWF even while reputedly
leading the universe in ivory trafficking.
Operation Lock, an anti-poaching
mercenary force, was formed in the 1980s by
Prince Bernhardt and WWF Africa program director
John Hanks. Officially disavowed by WWF, it
worked closely with units of the apartheid South
African military–which funded covert operations
within other African nations through elephant and
rhino poaching. As London Independent reporter
Stephen Ellis revealed in January 1991, it
“collapsed with funds and horn stocks missing.”
King Gyanendra of Nepal, who represented
Nepal in dealings with WWF from 1976 to 2006,
was found in March 2008 to have extensively
misused funds granted to the King Mahendra
National Trust for Nature Conservation.

Polar bears & ambient lead

Under the WWF mantra of promoting
“sustainable use” of wildlife, WWF in early
2010 led the successful opposition to a U.S.
proposal to add polar bears to Appendix I of the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species. This would have stopped the export of
polar bear trophies from Canada, the last major
venue for polar bear hunting.
Polar bear trophy imports into the U.S.
have been prohibited since 2008, when polar
bears received protection as a threatened species
under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. On April
17, however, the U.S. House of Representatives
voted 274-146 to create a loophole in the ESA
which would allow 41 U.S. trophy hunters to
import trophies from polar bears who were killed
before the ESA listing took effect.
The bill also “makes it harder to
restrict hunting and fishing on public lands and
ensures that the hunter’s arsenal will continue
to include lead bullets,” despite the hazards
that lead presents to ecological health,
summarized Jim Abrams for the Huffington Post.
“The trophy hunting community was aware
of the pending ESA listing for well over a year,”
said Humane Society Legislative Fund president
Mike Markarian. “Trophy hunters were warned that
the listing would cut off imports immediately.
These individuals knowingly assumed the risk that
their trophies might not be approved for import,
and decided to hunt and kill these beautiful
creatures anyway. They have also had their day
in court; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and
a federal court have already rejected hunters’
requests to import trophies after the effective
date of the listing.”
Word of Juan Carlos’ Botswana elephant
hunt reached the world in the wake of controversy
over a late 2011 trophy shoot in Zimbabwe
undertaken by Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump,
sons of U.S. billionaire Donald Trump. The Trump
sons “killed an elephant, an endangered leopard,
a buffalo, a crocodile and other animals on a
trip arranged by a South African safari firm that
is not registered in Zimbabwe,” reported Gillian
Gotara of Associated Press.
“The safari operator was obviously paid,
but the majority of the money probably didn’t
come into Zimbabwe,” Zimbabwe Conservation Task
Force founder Johnny Rodrigues told Gotara.
The Trumps claimed to have given the meat
from the animals they killed to local villagers,
but “There are no villages in the northwestern
Matetsi district of Zimbabwe where they hunted,”
Gotara continued.
“It is an insult to say ‘we gave away the
meat.’ They mustn’t turn around and say that
they shot those animals for conservation either,”
Rodrigues said.

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