Sun 17 Oct 2004
Scotland on Sunday
Outrage at bear-faced cheek of
CARMIOLA IONESCU IN BUCHAREST
IN THE rest of Europe it is not
considered the sport of kings. Now Spain’s King Juan Carlos has come under
fire from conservationist groups after shooting bears in Romania just as the
WWF was staging an international forum to showcase their work in integrating
bear and human populations.
The WWF trip was
organised to show the world’s media how bears and humans had learned to live
in peaceful co-existence. But WWF sources claim the good work was undone by
the hunting trip, which drew local newspaper headlines with reports of the
King’s weekend hunt and his group’s "success" at shooting nine
animals including a pregnant female.
Carpathian animal protection group, the Aves Foundation, said King Juan
Carlos and his entourage killed nine bears while hunting. The foundation
claimed he then left two others wounded, which his attendants were unable to
kill, and lost track of after pelting them with bullets.
Foundation claims he also killed a number of wolves and wild boar during his
two-day trip, staying at one of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s hunting
lodges in Covasna, central Romania.
Szabo-Szeley, president of the group, said: "Only Ceausescu did things
like this. No moral hunter in this world kills more than one bear because it
is completely unethical.
Spanish king left behind two wounded bears that he and his hunting party
couldn’t find after they shot them. The biggest crime they committed is
killing a pregnant female bear. This was definitely not a hunt, it was a
He added that he
believes the King only came to Romania because in Spain only 27 bears can be
legally hunted every year.
A spokesman for
the King described the visit as private and refused to comment on what he was
doing in the country.
Arpad, head of Romanian company Abies Hunting, which organised the hunting
trip, said the King himself had only bagged a single bear among his kills.
"Fourteen animals were shot by the King and his entourage, but only five
of these were bears. The King shot only one bear, two wolves, and two wild
He added that
the King had paid roughly £40,000 for the entire trip, which included a
standard licence fee to go on the hunt as well as extra fees for each animal
The WWF refused
to comment directly on the King’s trip, but when asked about hunting bears a
spokesman for the organisation in Romania said: "We are currently
undertaking a study on bears and until that is finished we cannot comment on
the impact of hunting on bear communities."
King Juan Carlos
is known to be a keen hunter and has hunted in the past in many countries, at
times with other foreign leaders and even with former US president George
But this is not
the first time the Spanish King has drawn the wrath of conservation groups
over his passion for blood sports.
Last year he
came in for fierce criticism for killing a rare wild European bison during a
hunt in Poland’s Borecka forest, one of Europe’s last surviving areas of
minister, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, accompanied him on the hunt.
The bison is
among the world’s rarest animals with only about 1,600 remaining, and the
Polish Society for the Protection of Animals condemned the hunt and the
government’s decision to let the animal be shot as a "total
reportedly paid £4,700 to be allowed to shoot the 100-stone bison.
incident in Romania will only add to growing fears that the brown bear will
soon become extinct in the region. Romania is one of the few countries in
Europe that permits limited bear hunting.
has become big business in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains, the last place in
Europe apart from Russia, where many large carnivores, bears, wolves and
lynxes, can be found.
in the country have grown popular with Europe’s rich and elite who often pay
tens of thousands of pounds for hunting trips organised by specialised
number of celebrities and politicians, including French President Jacques
Chirac and actress Brigitte Bardot, wrote a letter to Romania’s Prime
Minister Adrian Nastase to voice their concerns about the fate of the bear.
Their letter was
partly in response to the government’s decision to allow the shooting of 300
bears each year.
Szabo-Szeley has also sent a report to Nastase which details evidence that
the bear population is down from the official figure of 6,300 to 2,500.
Foundation report argued: "Romania’s kill figures for the trophy-hunter
market are way above a sustainable cull. They endanger the species."
But Nastase, who
is also chairman of the Romanian Association of Hunters, has rejected claims
that the bear population has dropped so dramatically.
Union responded to the Aves Foundation’s concerns by pointing out that member
states "have to ensure a favourable conservation status of natural
habitats and species of wild fauna and flora of Community interest".
Verheugen, the EU commissioner in charge of supervising membership
applications, has said that if Romania entered the trading bloc as it hoped
to, European law would prohibit the bear hunting.