During a visit to Africa several years ago, he decided to make it his mission to help save wild African elephants.
"I was staying in Zimbabwe in the bush at this incredible conservation institute. Every morning I got to wake up and have my coffee with a young, orphaned elephant named Dojiwae. Both of her parents were killed by poachers unfortunately."
After that encounter, he wanted to help stop elephant poaching and the ivory trade.
"If people had the ability to make that connection, the physical connection of this beautiful intelligent animal... I think people would really feel differently about when they think about taking this tusk and what it means to kill these beautiful animals."
Somerhalder partnered with the organization WildAid
for its Year of the Elephant
According to WildAid, approximately 33,000 elephants are killed every year for their ivory.
"It's WildAid's goal. It's all of our goal to make this the year of the elephant, where more elephants are born than killed by poachers," the actor said.
The campaign educates people on how ivory products are made and asks people to pledge never to buy ivory again.
"They don't realize that that little piece of ivory in their bracelet or their necklace, that it came from an elephant. So, it's about starting to question everything. Question where these things come from, why they're even there and join the conversation," Somerhalder said.
Encouraging people not to purchase ivory is one of the best ways to save the elephants, he added.
"When the buying stops, the killing will stop."