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King Juan Carlos sorry about elephant hunt

In an unprecedented act of royal contrition, the King of Spain apologised yesterday for having gone elephant-hunting in Africa last week, as Spain endures a severe economic crisis.

"I am very sorry. I made a mistake. It won't happen again," King Juan Carlos said, in an attempt to placate a wave of public outrage.

The 74-year-old monarch's visit to Botswana came as Spanish citizens face 23 per cent unemployment, a shrinking economy and fears of needing an EU bailout.

Some also suggested that it was inappropriate for the King, who is honorary president of the Spanish branch of the wildlife charity WWF, to go on an elephant hunt.

A royal palace official denied reports that the monarch had left the country without telling the government. The official said the King had made the trip as a guest of unnamed hosts, denying that taxpayers' money had been spent.