Long-term shifts in admissions of birds to wildlife recovery centres reflect changes in societal attitudes towards wildlife in Spain
Published: Volume 69.2, July 2022. Pages 291-302.
Public attitudes towards wildlife in Spain are thought to have changed substantially as a result of mass relocation from rural villages to big cities during the last six or seven decades. One way to test this change is to examine the causes of admission of wildlife to recovery centres. In this study we analyse c. 70,000 admissions of birds to the three rehabilitation centres of the regional government of Valencia (Eastern Spain) during 30 years (1991-2020). Using multiple hypotheses testing, specified by means of Poisson regressions and selected via AIC, we found that our more parsimonious models included only the interaction between causes of admission, habitat and source of origin with time (in five-year periods). Specifically, admissions resulting from non-natural causes decreased over time and those due to accidents with infrastructure or due to non human-related causes showed an increase. birds of prey were more commonly admitted due to deliberate persecution than the other bird groups studied (6.36% v. 1.23%), but the trend over time of raptor admissions due to illegal shooting was negative and strong, declining from 21.7% in 1991-1995 to 3.0% in 2016-2020. Collisions against infrastructures were the main cause of accidental admissions (59.5%), followed by electrocutions (14.8%) and road kills (9.6%). Admissions due to natural causes were mainly of orphaned young birds or undernourished individuals (85%). The number of orphaned bird admissions increased exponentially during the study period. Regarding habitat of origin, bird admissions from urban and rural areas showed a stronger increase over time compared to those from natural areas. Finally, admissions from official sources prevailed until 2011, but thereafter unofficial (i.e. individual people) sources became prevalent. In summary, bird admissions initially coming from non-urban areas and associated with official entities shifted to coming from urban areas associated with unofficial sources. This is interpreted by us to be a reliable confirmation of the change in attitudes of modern Spanish society towards wildlife. Causes of admission to wRCs are dynamic at decadal time scales and are expected to keep changing in the near future.