Spain’s King Juan Carlos’ crown tarnished with latest trophy hunting gaffe

Spain's King Juan Carlos is facing criticism for taking a hunting trip in Botswana, reportedly costing $56,000, during which the monarch broke his hip and ended up in hospital. The news sent waves of disapproval throughout the country. Spain is currently dealing with a financial debt crisis and its inhabitants are struggling to cope with increased unemployment and harsh austerity. Juan Carlos—who happens to be honorary chairman of the Spanish Branch of the World Wildlife Fund—is also the target of significant backlash from animal lovers and wildlife conservationists, many of whom are calling for his expulsion from the organization.

Unfortunately, Juan Carlos’ misstep is far from an isolated incident; rather, it is part of a more widespread problem involving trophy hunting and the wealthy individuals who support these activities. With the proliferation of traditional and new media, public figures must generally be more socially and morally responsible in their everyday lives, since stories that would normally run under-the-radar now threaten to become viral and gain national—and international—attention; vainglorious trophy hunting seems to be a reoccurring example of such excess becoming a high-profile scandal. Just last month, two sons of Donald Trump sparked controversy when graphic photos capturing them on an African trophy hunting safari surfaced on the Internet. In 2011, GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons ignited outrage after a video of his elephant hunt surfaced online. 

Confronted with trophy hunting, poaching, abduction from the wild for the exotic pet trade, habitat loss, climate change and retaliatory killings from human/wildlife conflict, animals in the wild are already facing mounting threats and an uncertain future. Yet each year imperiled animals like African lions, leopards and elephants are killed for sport and imported to the U.S.

Juan Carlos and his hired gun will likely argue that trophy hunting helps wildlife by injecting money into local African economies – but these alleged benefits to local communities are rarely substantiated, and more often evidence emerges of funds staying at government capitols or with foreign hunting outfitters.

With billions of dollars in net worth between them, wealthy individuals such as Juan Carlos and the Trumps can afford to make high-impact, tangible changes in communities around the world without supporting cruel and unsustainable practices such as trophy hunting. Their ignorance and hubris can no longer go unnoticed.

--JF

For more information about IFAW’s work to protect imperiled animals that are still being trophy hunted—like African lions and polar bears—please go to ifaw.org.

For additional information on trophy hunting, I invite you to read my article on The Huffington Post.

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy