The WallStreetBets subreddit has helped drive $US383,000 ($491,389) in donations to a gorilla conservation organisation this week. The preceding sentence would have been barely intelligible even just last December, and yet here we are.
To quickly recap: In January, folks on the subreddit r/WallStreetBets captured headlines for buying up shares in GameStop’s stock as well as other oft-memed firms like AMC Theatres. A number of hedge funds had shorted GameStop, banking on the price of its stock plunging, which would, perversely, allow them to make money. The surge of Redditors buying Gamestop and others who wanted in on the investing frenzy caused stock prices to soar, though, screwing over the hedge funds shorting the company while also allowing some Redditors and individual investors to get very rich. (Some everyday people were also left very screwed.)
WallStreetBets folks have long referred to themselves as “apes” — it’s a kind of inside joke based on the memeification of Harambe, the gorilla who was shot to death in 2016 at the Cincinnati Zoo after a kid fell into his enclosure. Always ones to commit to a bit, they’ve been donating to efforts to save other apes.
Many have been donating to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, an international charity devoted to funding the conservation, protection, and study of gorillas in Africa. The organisation usually receives 20 donations in an average weekend from people looking to symbolically adopt gorillas, but since this past Saturday, it said it’s received thousands of adoption donations totaling more than $US383,000 ($491,389). Many of the adoptions were made using fake names made to throw shade at hedgefund managers: A thread on the subreddit called “This MFer is probably is richer than me right now” shows certificates made out to “Jim Cramer’s Tears” and “Fuck Melvin Capital.” Yeah, this isn’t the systemic change we need to save endangered species, but it’s kind of tight considering gorillas are on the decline due to habitat degradation by industry, poaching, industry, and climate change.
This was such a big deal for the charity that its president and CEO Tara Stoinski (more like Stonksy, am I right?) recorded a video message specifically for the Redditors. The group also shouted them out on their webpage by adding the hashtag #ApesTogetherStrong and making a limited edition line of merch featuring it along the symbols for diamond hands. The slogan is curbed from a meme based on the movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but WallStreetBets members use to describe their collective action to outsmart rich hedge funders.
The WallStreetBets Redditors have been donating to other animal conservation organisations, too. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust saw a $US10,000 ($12,830) spike in donations last weekend, including the adoption of an orphaned elephant in Kenya. Members have also sent money to the Orangutan Project and other charities.
“Fucking love this community,” one WallStreetBets user wrote. “I mean, honestly, can you ever possibly imagine that somewhere on Wall Street or in Chicago they even have a tiny scrap of a post-it dedicated to anything more than just their own fucking money?”