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Spain king ousted as WWF branch honorary president

The World Wildlife Fund's branch in Spain has ousted King Juan Carlos as its honorary president — a title he'd held since 1968 — after deciding his recent elephant hunting safari was incompatible with its goal of conserving endangered species.

The announcement Saturday was the latest in a string of bad news for Spain's royal family, which has been embarrassed by legal and other scandals.

The fund said in a statement that "although such hunting is legal and regulated" it had "received many expressions of distress from its members and society in general." It said members voted at a meeting Saturday in Madrid to "to get rid of the honorary President" by a substantial majority of 226 votes to 13.

The Royal Palace declined immediate comment on the announcement.

Many Spaniards were dumbfounded when news broke in April that the king had made a secret journey to hunt elephants in Botswana even though it was widely known he was president of the Spanish branch of the fund.

Such an opulent indulgence also angered Spaniards at a time when national unemployment hovers around 25 percent, the economy is contracting and there are fears the country may need an international financial bailout.

The Spanish public learned of the safari only after the king had to fly back in a private jet to receive emergency medical attention for a broken hip suffered during the trip.

In an unprecedented act of royal contrition, a sheepish Juan Carlos apologized, saying as he left the hospital: "I am very sorry. I made a mistake. It won't happen again."

It was a poignant moment because the royal family had been under intense media scrutiny for all the wrong reasons.

The king's son-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, is a suspect in a corruption case, accused of having used his position to embezzle several million euros in public contracts through a supposedly not-for-profit foundation he'd set up.

Over Easter, the king's 13-year-old grandson, Felipe Juan Froilan, shot himself in the foot with a shotgun, even though Spanish law dictates you must be 14 to handle a gun.

The king on Tuesday decided to take a pay cut in solidarity with civil servants who are to lose their traditional Christmas bonuses as part of the government's most recent austerity drive.

The salaries of Juan Carlos and Crown Prince Felipe will be reduced about 7 percent — to about 272,000 euros ($334,000) and 131,000 euros ($160,000) respectively — in line with government policy, the Royal Palace said.

The king and prince acted voluntarily in cutting their salaries, the palace said.

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