Albert, Sylvia, Red, and Ninja are four little birds that started their migration journey in 2017, but never reached their destination. Like them, around 36 million birds die, victims of illegal practices in Europe every year. Shot, glued, trapped, these wildlife crimes have devastating consequences for birds, but also for biodiversity in general, endangering the survival of many species. That’s why the Bern Convention asked us to create a campaign to raise awareness about this problem, and we got down to work!

Talking about death can be challenging, there were many ideas to discuss. First, we thought about concepts like flight or borders. We also discussed ideas of tradition, as the killing of migratory birds is an ancient practice in some countries. A short movie could be the appropriate format to capture this idea, but time was against us. We kept thinking, and if there was something we agreed on, it was that nobody kills famous birds. We could design a campaign in which birds known by everyone, like Disney’s birds, died. However, the idea was discarded as we have no claim over these characters’ intellectual property.

After many hours of debate, it finally struck us. Since the last words someone says before they die hold great importance socially, and tweeting is what birds do, we chose Twitter as the channel for the campaign: “The Last Tweet” was born. We created four different fictional characters with their own Twitter account: Albert (@albertgoldfinch), Sylvia (@sylviablackcap), Red (@Red_TheRobin) and Ninja (@ninja_dove). In their tweets, they told the story of their migration adventures, until they were killed by illegal hunters. Their last tweet featured a call to action that invited readers to learn their story and sent a clear message: we must end these cruel illegal practices.

Our aim was to use personification to establish an emotional connection between the audience and the birds: they visited monuments, took photos, got drunk, found a partner… They behaved in very human ways. However, this fiction was not at odds with scientific rigour. At first, we selected the bird species most affected by illegal killings — the goldfinch, the blackcap, the robin, and the turtle dove — then, we searched for information about their migration routes. From London to Cádiz, from Norway to Cyprus, from Helsinki to Rome, and from Sudan to Czech Republic, our little friends began their journeys.

The same day we launched the campaign, BirdLife International presented the ‘The Killing 2.0 – A view to kill’ a scientific report exposing the scale and scope of the illegal killing of birds across critical regions. This helped us to amplify awareness of the problem, appearing in national and international media and achieving a considerable reach across social media platforms. We fulfilled our aim: promoting a tangible awareness on the illegal killing of birds.