WallStreetBets Use Gamestop Stock Proceeds to Help Wildlife


Members of subreddit group WallStreetBets have used the proceeds from Gamestop stock to donate large sums of money to wildlife conservation charities. 

Gorillas, sea turtles, orangutans and other threatened species have benefitted from the group’s donations. 

r/WallStreetBets was the springboard for a massive attack on short-selling Wall Street hedge funds and traders in January when members of the group rallied to inflate the price of Gamestop’s share price. 

Hedge funds, particularly Melvin Capital, had employed short-selling against Gamestop. Short-selling is a method of trading where traders bet that the stock price will go either up or down over time, selling stocks borrowed from a lender while the stock was at a high price and then buying the stock again to return to the lender when the stock is cheaper, or vice-versa, with the short-seller keeping the difference. 

WallStreetBets, led by Reddit user DFV, exploited the short sellers by artificially inflating Gamestop’s share price through mass media co-ordinated buying, attempting to trigger a ‘short squeeze’ where short-sellers begin closing their positions at higher and higher prices in order to return them to the initial lender. 

Gamestop’s share price was able to reach $347 on the 27th of January and $265 on the 12th of March, allowing early buyers of the stock - which rose from its price of $17 at the beginning of January - to make unprecedented gains. 

Following the most recent increase in Gamestop’s stock price, WallStreetBets users rallied to donate towards wildlife conservation organisations. Gorilla conservation was the biggest beneficiary, largely due to the Harambe meme and group references to Planet of the Apes, where the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund received more than 3,500 adoptions worth a total of $350,000. The fund, which usually receives 20 adoptions a week, received donations under fake monikers “F**k Melvin Capital” and “Jim Cramer’s Tears,” the monikers taking potshots at hedge fund managers. Dr Tara Stoinski, resident, chief executive and chief scientific officer for the gorilla fund, stated:

“The support that has come to our organisation, as well as others, is amazing. One of the biggest challenges in conservation is just that there’s not enough funding for the challenges we face on the ground. As well as money, the influx of donations has brought welcome public attention to the trust’s work. A lot of people just aren’t aware that gorillas are such at-risk species and that we could lose them.” 

Gorillas were also adopted at the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park, where the conservation programme was hit by the COVID pandemic, losing nearly 40% of its tourism revenue. 

Another beneficiary was the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust who run an orphaned elephant rescue centre in Kenya. The trust received £10,000 in donations last weekend, with trust spokesperson Amie Alden stating:

“It’s a new supporter base for us, for sure, one that we’re extremely thankful for. We’ve currently got more than 90 dependent orphaned elephants in our care and it’s an expensive undertaking.”

Alden said allowing people to adopt an animal was a much more personal way of donating. 

“It’s a named individual that has a personality, characteristics and a unique rescue story. Through that donation, they have access to monthly updates written by their keepers on their specific orphan. We were one of the early charities to try this method. I think it opens a real window on elephants’ intelligence, their emotions, their family, and it’s these sort of elements that really connect people to the difference they’re making.”

Other organisations who benefited were the Florida based Sea Turtle Conservancy, Australian Orangutan Project and organisations protecting pangolins, lynx, wolves, polar bears and even bulls and bears - a sly reference to stock trading terminology.

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