The Spanish king has apologized for going on a safari to Botswana while his country is struggling with a deep recession. Many are calling on him to step down from his post as honorary president of the Spanish WWF.
King Juan Carlos has apologized to the Spanish people for going on a hunting trip to Africa.
"I am very sorry. I made a mistake and it won't happen again," the king told reporters as he left a Madrid hospital where he had undergone a hip replacement.
Many Spaniards had expressed outrage after the news emerged that the monarch had gone on a safari to hunt elephants in Botswana. The story came to light after the king fell during the safari and had to be flown back to Spain for treatment last Friday.
The trip caused particular anger due to the plight of many Spaniards who are struggling to cope due to the country's recession-hit economy and the center-right government's austerity measures aimed at reining in public deficit. Spain's unemployment rate currently stands at 23 percent.
The king also faced a hail of criticism in the country's media.
"The sight of a monarch hunting elephants in Africa when the economic crisis in our country is causing so many problems for Spaniards does not set a good example," a commentary in the conservative daily paper El Mundo said.
However, the Reuters news agency quoted an official with the royal palace in Madrid said no public funds were used for the trip as the king had been the guest of unnamed hosts.
The king has been criticized not just for the cost but also the nature of the trip, in part due to the fact that he is honorary president of Spain's branch of the World Wildlife Fund. More than 40,000 people have signed an online petition calling on him to resign from the post.
Prior to discharging the king, doctors said the head of state had made a "very satisfactory" recovery since Saturday's operation.
pfd/mz (AP, AFP)