“Apes together strong” is one of the mottoes of Reddit’s r/WallStreetBets community. Now, members of the financial subreddit are making good on one of their favorite memes by donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities supporting gorillas in the wild.
The most prominent recipient of the redditors’ generosity is the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, whose president and CEO Tara Stoinski describes it as “the world’s largest and longest running organization that is fully dedicated to gorilla conservation.”
The fund has so far received more than $350,000 in donations, according to a report from BBC News, with redditors adopting approximately 3,500 endangered gorillas in six days. For comparison, the charity says it usually registers 20 adoptions in a typical weekend.
Stoinski told BBC News: “They’ve truly made a difference for our world and shown what can be accomplished when people come together. When we save gorillas and we save forests, we save our world.” In a tweet, the charity said that all the funds “will go straight into our field programs, where 365 days a year we’re tracking, monitoring and studying wild gorillas and their habitat, and helping people who share their first home.”
Stoinski posted a video to r/WallStreetBets earlier this week, thanking the community’s members for their donations. Commenters responded with enthusiasm and joy. “Apes supporting apes,” noted one. “Just a bunch of degenerative apes protecting their own species,” said another. The Dian Fossey Fund is returning the redditors’ meme-laden good wishes, updating its homepage to feature the slogan: “Apes together strong.”
The slogan itself is a meme taken from the 2011 film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but has been embraced by members of r/WallStreetBets, who see their coordinated financial action as proof that an army of “dumb” day traders can outsmart the “geniuses” of Wall Street.
The subreddit is notable for numerous inside jokes, many of which found their way into the group’s support for gorillas. Redditors sharing their donations to Dian Fossey fund have variously signed off as “Harambe GameStop,” “Wall St Bets Ape,” and “Karl Tendiekong.” (The latter is a reference to the community’s idolization of chicken tenders, or tendies; the only meal fit to celebrate hearty profits after a hard day trading.)
The subreddit shot to fame this January when members piled their money into GameStop stock, hoping to undermine the financial positions of various hedge funds which had been shorting the retailer. Since then, GameStop’s stock has rocketed up and down, making some millions and losing others just as much. Many commenters responding to Stoinski’s video said they’d specifically donated a portion of their profits from trading GameStop.
It’s hard to summarize the outcome of WallStreeBets’ memefication of the stock markets, but for many experts, it changes very little. In the case of GameStop, financial journalist Matt Levine noted in February that while some hedge funds shorting the stock lost money and some redditors who got in early made lots, other hedge funds who predicted when the stock would fall also made money, while plenty of redditors who got in late also lost it. The basic mechanism of what happened, says Levine, “is that Reddit correctly noticed that if everyone buys a stock then it will go up, and then they all did that.”
Is there a lesson in all this? It probably depends on whether the person asking lost or made money. But as the flood of donations to the Dian Fossey fund proves: at least the gorillas are getting something out of it.