While ordinary Spaniards cope with harsh austerity, recession and soaring unemployment, the country’s royal family has been enjoying expensive hunting trips, one of which resulted in King Juan Carlos ending up in hospital.
The 74-year-old monarch’s fall in a park in Botswana provided an excuse for Spanish newspapers, who normally treat their royal family with kid gloves, to plaster their pages with photos of the king standing proudly in front of a dead elephant.
The photograph came from the website of Botswana-based Rann Safaris, which had been taken down by Sunday. The pictures, taken before the latest hunting trip, also showed the king with two dead water buffaloes.
Shoots with Rann Safaris cost upwards of $8,700 (£5,500) a week, with an elephant costing a further $15,000 to kill. A day out with professional hunter Jeff Rann, pictured with the king, costs a further $2,000.
The king’s accident, after which he was flown back to Madrid for a hip operation, came days after his grandson, 13-year-old Froilán Marichalar, shot himself in the foot while hunting in Spain. He also had to be hospitalised and doctors removed the contents of a 36-calibre shotgun cartridge from his foot. Newspapers reported that it was illegal for a 13-year-old to handle that type of gun.
The king’s hunting trip, which officials described as private, has caused a storm of angry comment from animal lovers and those wanting to know how much it had cost.
A promotional video on YouTube shows Rann shooting elephants – which can be killed with licences bought at auction from the Botswana government – in the Okavango delta.
“You have to manage the world’s animal populations, to their betterment,” says Rann, who did not answer queries from the Guardian. “We are trying to improve their habitat.”
King Juan Carlos has been involved in hunting scandals before. Six years ago, officials dismissed as ridiculous allegations that he had shot a drunken Russian bear that had been plied with honey and vodka. The royal family has a troubled history with guns. The king shot and killed his brother in an accident when he was a teenager.
This article was written by Giles Tremlett and published by The Guardian UK.