Spain's King Juan Carlos I has apologized to the Spanish people for going on a secret trip to Africa while his country reels from an economic crisis.
News that the king had traveled to Botswana to hunt elephants emerged after Juan Carlos was flown home with a broken hip.
The 74-year-old reportedly broke his hip after falling from a step, and underwent hip replacement surgery on the weekend at a Madrid hospital.
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The king's hunting holiday comes at a time when his country is facing renewed economic pressures and one in two young Spaniards is unemployed. He has been widely criticized by both Spanish media and environmentalists.
"I'm very sorry, I made a mistake. It won't happen again," King Juan Carlos said as he left the hospital in Madrid, the BBC reported.
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The king is honorary president of the Spanish branch of WWF, the international conservation group. An online petition calling for his resignation from WWF had drawn almost 85,000 signatures by the time he made his public apology, the BBC said.
The palace in Spain would not confirm reports that King Juan Carlos was hunting elephants, saying only that the trip was private.
According to the Guardian, the king's grandson, 13-year-old Froilán Marichalar, previously shot himself in the foot while hunting in Spain.
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