Spain's WWF dumps King as patron over African hunting trip

MADRID Sat Jul 21, 2012 1:09pm EDT

Spain's King Juan Carlos is reflected in a window as he arrives to visit the headquarters of the Spanish Civil Guard at Algeciras, southern Spain, June 20, 2012. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Spain's King Juan Carlos is reflected in a window as he arrives to visit the headquarters of the Spanish Civil Guard at Algeciras, southern Spain, June 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jon Nazca

MADRID (Reuters) - The Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) voted to remove King Juan Carlos as the organization's honorary patron on Saturday after he went on an elephant-hunting safari in Botswana.

Members of the Spanish chapter of the WWF charity voted overwhelmingly to scrap the position of honorary patron, which has been occupied by Juan Carlos since the group was created in Spain in 1968.

The move is a further setback for Spain's royal family, whose popularity has waned amid corruption allegations against the King's son-in-law, and after the monarch's hunting holiday in April, in which he was photographed posing with a rifle next to a dead elephant and also broke his hip.

The trip sat badly with Spaniards struggling to overcome an economic crisis which has left nearly one in four Spaniards unemployed.

The hunting trip was legal and regulated under Botswana law, but the WWF in Spain said King Juan Carlos's participation in it had made many of its members uneasy.

"Although this type of hunting is legal and regulated, many members consider it to be incompatible with the position of honorary patron of an international organization ... that aims to protect the environment," the group said in a statement.

The royal family took a pay cut last week after a fresh round of government spending cuts sparked widespread protests.

(Reporting by Teresa Medrano; Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Roger Atwood)

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