Courtesy Ian Somerhalder / Splash News 1 / 9
Courtesy Ian Somerhalder / Splash News 1 / 9

When Ian Somerhalder shared a snap of himself riding an African elephant, he hoped to bring attention to the mostly illegal ivory trade. Instead, he is the one being criticized.

The image showed him sitting atop of the elephant, both of his hands on the back of the enormous animal.

However, many have taken him to task for the stunt.

The Humane Society and PETA have slammed elephant-riding, saying it causes debilitating harm to the animal's spine and feet, as well as supporting a tourist industry often using abusive training methods.

On March 18, World Animal Protection announced that 114 major travel firms have pledged to stop promoting venues with elephant rides and shows.

As for Ian, a huge animal activist, his photo was actually taken in 2013 in Zimbabwe and it wasn't done with any malice. The Vampire Diaries star, as well as many animal rights organizations, have tried to convince the world to stop using ivory. In turn, they want poachers to stop killing the animals for their ivory.

He has partnered with the organization WildAid for its Year of the Elephant campaign.

According to WildAid, approximately 33,000 elephants are killed every year for their ivory.

"When the buying stops, the killing will stop," the actor said on Instagram, echoing WildAid's mantra. "It's time to stop the senseless slaughter of these beautiful creatures."

In an interview with CNN, he said, "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."

While Ian is feeling the sting of many critics for riding the elephant, no one is alleging that he isn't a friend to animals.

He is often seen with four-legged friends. In fact, he and his wife, actress Nikki Reed, own four dogs, three cats, and two horses.

He and Nikki will celebrate their first wedding anniversary on April 26.