The importance of top predators in the functioning of ecosystems is a well-established ecological paradigm; therefore active persecution of top predators is a serious global conservation problem. Here we present the case of a southern European country (Spain) which has moved rapidly from widespread and long-term intense persecution of raptors until the 1970's to occupying a leading place in raptor study and conservation within Europe today. We argue that such a radical change may have a contingent component (the rapid and intensive urban concentration of rural people following economic growth of the country), as well as a more deterministic component (an active role of mass media increasing awareness to a concentrated population). This societal shift could inform future conservation strategies in countries currently undergoing rapid urbanisation.
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