The wild rise of video game retailer GameStop’s stock price has had an unlikely beneficiary: endangered gorillas.
Users of Reddit’s WallStreetBets subreddit, which gained notoriety for their coordinated bet on the stock of GameStop and battles with US hedge funds, have found a new mission.
Under the slogan ‘Apes Together Strong’, investors are using their GameStop earnings to adopt gorillas and raise money for charities like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and World Wildlife Fund, which work to protect primate welfare.
So far, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised and donated in the span of a week.
Expressing their surprise at the donations, which will help field programmes to track, monitor and study endangered gorillas, the Fossey Fund said they were ‘thrilled and appreciative of the grassroots donations that have come our way thanks to a group of investors on Reddit’.
‘We thank these new donors for their contributions to the success of our mission – because in saving gorillas, we save the planet.’
The Fossey Fund also added the ‘Apes Together Strong’ slogan to their website.
Other charities, too, like the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiaive in Iowa, have received large and numerous donations.
The gorilla donation trend began after a post from Reddit user ‘Pakistani_in_MURICA’ rocketed to the top of the WallStreetBets subreddit: an adoption certificate stating that ape Urangano had been adopted, in GameStop’s name.
The post was well received in the Reddit community, with users asking how they could also donate.
WallStreetBets gained international attention in January this year after its community invested in GameStop en masse, causing the stock to rocket in price by hundreds of dollars.
While the stock has fluctuated since then, with some investors wealthy and others having sustained large losses, the mass mobilisation of users, often for political or joke purposes, on the subreddit has remained strong.
For many Redditors, the GameStop episode was a tool to cause large financial institutions – specifically, short sellers – as much monetary damage as possible.
By that goal, they succeeded: because of time deadlines within short selling contracts that big hedge funds use, many lost billions of dollars because of the GameStop stock surge.
But some institutional investors, as well as individual retail investors, also profited.
The world’s largest asset manager BlackRock held 9.2m shares at the end of last year, which would have gained billions of dollars of value thanks to the stock price surge.
Why has GameStop surged in value?
In September of last year, pet food retailer boss Ryan Cohen invested 13% in GameStop, and pushed the company to try and turn around their fortunes by becoming an online-first retailer, competing with Amazon.
This led to speculation on amateur investment websites, most notably the WallStreetBets section of Reddit, as to whether GameStop would actually increase in value.
The recommendation, which started as innocent investment advice, began to take on more significance as the Redditors realised they were moving the stock price upward.
For many individual investors, the battle over GameStop’s stock price took on greater political meaning. Big hedge funds, like Melvin Capital and Citron Research, had bet large sums of money against the GameStop stock price rising, so doubled down and tried to bet even more on the stock price eventually decreasing.
Many financial commentators have seen large hedge funds ‘short’ selling as predatory behaviour – but as Redditors continued to pile in on the GameStop stock via investing apps like RobinHood, they began to see it as a chance to beat the hedge funds at their own game.
In the aftermath of the price rally, RobinHood, a financial services company that says its motto is to ‘democratise finance’, halted trading for GameStop and related ‘meme stocks’, which drew the ire of users and politicians alike.
Key players in the saga, like Reddit user Keith Gill and Melvin Capital CEO Gabriel Plotkin have since testified in front of Congress about GameStop stock.