LONDON: Cryptocurrencies and much of the activity surrounding them has often looked like a modern-day gold rush. The name of the game has been getting rich quick by buying the right coins at the right time.
While Non-fungible tokens, known as NFTs, have had some of that flavour — some of the money changing hands for collections of pixels has been eye-watering — there is also a creative and cultural element to them that is about more than making money.
They are also being used for good. Charities are starting to see how they can be used to engage with potential donors and raise money for their causes.
WildEarth, a wildlife streaming service, is creating NFTs linked to 25 animals on the Djuma Game Reserve in South Africa. Buyers get special access to images, video and information about creatures like Tlalamba, a four-year-old leopard, via an app, where they can also talk with other NFT owners. They even get voting rights in the names of Tlalamba's cubs.
Forty percent of the proceeds go to the custodian of the animals' habitat, with some $16,000 raised for the Djuma reserve via more than 1,000 sales so far. Each NFT currently costs around $200.
NFTs are a form of crypto asset which exploded in popularity last year. All kinds of digital objects - from art to videos and even tweets - can be bought and sold as NFTs, which use unique digital signatures to ensure they are one-of-a-kind.
Conservation income from traditional sources, such as hunting and tourism, collapsed during the pandemic. WildEarth hopes NFTs offer a potential new, reliable and low-impact revenue stream for conservation globally.
The plan is not guaranteed to work. The NFTs will need to be traded on the secondary market for them to become a reliable revenue stream, and it isn’t clear yet whether demand or that exists.
Lost in a Wormhole
Cryptocurrency arm of Jump Trading said on Thursday it had reimbursed members who lost more than $320 million following a hack of its crypto platform Wormhole, one of the largest crypto heists of all time.
Chicago-based Jump Trading acquired Certus One, the developer behind Wormhole, an online platform that allows the transfer of information across crypto networks, in August.
Wormhole has offered the attacker a $10 million "bounty" to return the funds.
The theft is not an isolated incident. Fraud and theft at decentralized finance, or DeFi, platforms surpassed $10 billion last year, according to research by Elliptic. DeFi platforms allow users to lend, borrow and save – usually in crypto – while bypassing traditional gatekeepers of finance such as banks.
However, they have emerged as a major hacking risk, with bugs in code and design flaws allowing criminals access to considerable funds.
In August, hackers behind what was probably the biggest ever digital coin theft returned nearly all of the $610 million or more they stole from the DeFi site Poly Network.
While cryptocurrencies themselves are very difficult to hack, crypto wallets, exchanges and other places they are stored have long been the target of hackers.
In 2018, digital tokens worth some $530 million were stolen from Tokyo-based platform Coincheck. Mt. Gox, another Japanese exchange, collapsed in 2014 after hackers stole half a billion dollars of crypto.
Elsewhere in cryptoland, Bitcoin rose on Friday, climbing 3.4 percent to $37,928, but is down from $46,208 at the end of 2021, while Ethereum jumped 8.5 percent to $2,836, down from $3,677 at the start of the year.