WallStreetBets Users Adopt Gorillas, Raise Over $200,000 for Charity in a Weekend

Donations to a gorilla conservation fund surged over the weekend after a meme spread through the subreddit r/WallStreetBets that resulted in its members symbolically adopting animals en masse.

The community, which has more than nine million members as of Monday, is typically dedicated to financial trading, and was at the center of a stock market frenzy in January that poured money into GameStop and other companies in an attempt to disrupt hedge funds and short sellers.

Since Saturday, users have been putting their money into another cause: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. It has received over $265,000 from members since Saturday, a spokesperson told Newsweek.

The charity's website says it is dedicated to the "protection and study of gorillas and their habitats in Africa" and lets people symbolically adopt animals to raise funds. In return, donors are sent an adoption certificate that shows their name—a gift that became central to the meme.

On Saturday, a r/WallStreetBets user kicked off the trend after sharing an image of an adopted gorilla made under the donor name "GameStop." It has since attracted more than 2,000 comments in the community.

Others soon followed, with the common link being the Dian Fossey fund. Another user adopted the same mountain gorilla under the name "GME," which is GameStop's stock market ticker. It snowballed from there.

Threads now include: "I like this trend. Come on my fellow apes, let's buy them a rainforest," "Inspired by the rest of the subreddit, I adopted a Gorilla," "I see we're adopting gorillas now. Well I'm down," and "Giving credit where credit is due... Ape is taken care of because of you."

As reported by Gizmodo, one user donated under the name "F*** Melvin Capital," which was a reference to one targeted hedge fund.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund said in a tweet on Sunday that it had raised $77,000 that day and specifically thanked r/WallStreetBets.

Wow! We are overwhelmed by the support we are seeing from @Official_WSB and people from around the world! We have raised $77k already today! Thank you all! ❤️🦍❤️ pic.twitter.com/kCLQrLOEeY

— Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (@SavingGorillas) March 14, 2021

A video praising the adoptions and donation was posted to the subreddit over the weekend by the fund's president and CEO, Dr. Tara Stoinski.

She said: "I was just made aware that you have been adopting gorillas on our website and I just wanted to say thank you so much for this incredible support... it will go a long way in helping our important mission."

Thousands of r/WallStreetBets users responded. The top comment reads: "Lol if GME hits 10k Gorillas are coming off the endangered list for sure."

A statement attributed to Dr. Stoinski sent to Newsweek on Monday read: "The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is surprised, thrilled and appreciative of the grassroots donations that have come our way thanks to a group of investors on Reddit. In one weekend, they donated more than $200,000, primarily through our symbolic gorilla adoption program.

"We rely on individual donors who give to us year after year because they know we can be relied upon to be careful stewards of their donations... We thank these new donors for their contributions to the success of our mission—because in saving gorillas, we save the planet."

Mountain gorillas
Three members of the "Nyakagezi" mountain gorillas group rest at the Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Kisoro on November 20, 2015. Donations to a gorilla conservation fund surged over the weekend after a meme spread through the subreddit r/WallStreetBets. ISAAC KASAMANI/AFP/Getty Images