There was some disturbing news out of Spain in recent days regarding a high-profile honorary member of a reputable NGO involved with the protection of wildlife.
The Honorary President of World Wildlife Fund-Spain since 1968, King Juan Carlos, suffered an accident breaking his hip during an elephant-hunting expedition to Botswana.
Animal rights activists were alarmed and much dismayed with the photos circulating on the Internet showing the Spanish monarch standing, with his guide, beside a recently killed magnificent elephant.
Nothing could be more incongruous: a prestigious organization dedicated to the conservation of endangered species, and an Honorary President famous for his hunting escapades, many of which occurred in Ceausescu-era Romania. More recently, in 2004, the Romania Libera newspaper reported on October 12 of that year, that the king, with the assistance of members of the Romanian secret police, killed nine bears, including a pregnant female bear and a wolf, plus leaving several other animals wounded.
On October 20, 2006, the English newspaper Telegraph, along with other media sources reported:
“King Juan Carlos of Spain was at the center of an embarrassing scandal yesterday after news reports emerged that he shot a domestic bear that had been fed honey-laced vodka to slow its reactions during a recent hunting trip in Russia.
The governor of Vologda, a region in northern Russia, ordered an investigation after a letter recounting the death of Mitrofan, the bear, was leaked to the Russian press.
In a letter to governor Vyacheslav Pozgalev, the senior deputy of the region's hunting grounds conservation department, decried Mitrofan's shooting in late August as "abominable."
"The hunting party sacrificed a good-humored and jolly bear who had been kept on a farm in the village of Novlenskoye," Sergey Starostin wrote.
"The bear was put in a cage and … they got him drunk with vodka mixed with honey and pushed him into the field. Quite naturally, the massive drunken animal became an easy target. His Majesty, Juan Carlos killed Mitrofan with one shot."
WWF-Spain's website has been bombarded with complaints from members and non-members alike demanding the immediate stripping of the King's Honorary Presidency status. Many have also expressed their disappointment for the lack of proper vetting and sound judgment shown by WWF's board in its assignation of this honorary title.
The consequences could be dire for WWF as an institution if this shameful event is not resolved as soon as possible. This venerable organization cannot appear to collude with those that are in direct opposition to its founding principles...and must not, under any circumstance, fall prey to the hubris of the elite!
Ruben Arvizu is Director for Latin America of Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org) and Director for Latin America of Ocean Futures Society.