In what must surely constitute the Robin Hood story of Reddit, investors who beat Wall Street at its own game earlier this year are now investing their earnings in wildlife conservation. The amateurs-turned-wealthy-investors shone an embarrassing light on the shorting behavior of hedge funds, before taking their money and delivering it to the doors of those working to protect endangered animals.
After triggering a 1,700 percent surge on stocks in GameStop — an American gaming retailer — millions of small-time investors in the company saw some big-time returns as they turned the tables on two hedge funds that had bet GameStop’s stock would fail. While these hedge funds shorted the gaming franchise, they were blissfully unaware of the coming counterattack as individual investors connected by nothing but the Reddit chatroom WallStreetBets took stock options in the other direction. The surge in activity caused GameStop’s market value to soar from $2 billion to upwards of $24 billion in a matter of days, temporarily toppling Wall Street at what Wall Street does best.
In the wake of the phenomenon, however, the millions-strong army of amateur investors decided to take a second step that was wholly un-Wall Street-like, using their earnings as an opportunity to invest in conservation. The organizations that have benefited from the unexpected but entirely welcome turn of events need donations to protect endangered animals including gorillas, pangolins, elephants, and turtles, among others.
The mission appears to have been sparked by Reddit user Pakistani_in_MURICA who posted a picture of their “adoption certificate” after donating money to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. The organization runs an adoption program that allows benefactors to support the life of named gorillas under their care in return for updates on the animal’s welfare as well as highlights from their research. The sponsor’s post received a flurry of kudos (or karma, as is the done thing on Reddit) that inspired others to follow suit.
The move may have been inspired by a popular saying among the WallStreetBets clan, “Apes together strong.” The immortal words were once signed by Caesar — an evolved chimpanzee and leader of the Ape Army who on weekends goes by the name Andy Serkis — in the recent remakes of the Planet of the Apes films. The words evidently have real-world influence, as the organization which usually averages about 20 “adoptions” a week received more than 3,500 adoptions totaling around $350,000.
Among updates about gorillas under their patronage, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Twitter timeline is now a mix of media coverage surrounding the heroic fundraising, a thread explaining the sequence of events as they unfolded and even a T-shirt inspired by WallStreetBets collective efforts.
“On Saturday, a friend alerted us that a member of @Official_WSB subreddit had posted a symbolic adoption of our infant gorilla #Urungano, a reference to the #WSB motto: #apestogetherstrong. It caught on,” reads the Twitter thread. “Adoption after adoption followed. Today, we have new numbers to share. Thanks to #WallStreetBets, we’ve received more than 2000 new adoptions totaling over $265k. JUST SINCE SATURDAY Flushed face. And it’s still coming.”
The organization, which is just one among several that saw a surprise surge in investments this week, will put the money towards its field programs which run year-round to track, monitor, and study wild gorillas and their habitat with a goal to support their population as well as the human populations who live alongside them.