Ian Somerhalder on Traveling Kindly, Saving Wildlife with WildAid


WildAid, a pioneer in global wildlife conservation, held its annual gala on November 12, at The Ritz Carlton in San Francisco. The annual event honored the nonprofit’s 16 years of tireless work to stop the illegal wildlife trade with tremendous support from its celebrity ambassadors. As a Kind Charity, we were thrilled for the opportunity to meet the minds behind this amazing organization making huge strides for wildlife. 

With 95 percent of the world’s rhinos lost in the last 40 years, approximately 33,000 elephants poached yearly in Africa for ivory, 73M sharks killed each year for shark fin soup, and approximately only 3,200 tigers remaining the wild, the need for wildlife conservation and awareness has never been greater. 

“Together, we are changing the world in a positive and durable way—moving societies away from wildlife consumption and into long-term, mainstream support for wildlife protection,” said Peter Knights, WildAid Co-Founder and CEO. 

As a highlight of the event, WildAid honored actor and conservation hero Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaires) with its prestigious Wildlife Champion Award. Past recipients included Sir Paul McCartney and actress Maggie Q.

We had the opportunity to catch up with Somerhalder as he shared inspiration on how the travel community can become a voice for animals and the environment, simply by exercising its purchasing power in a way that benefits the greater good. 

Nikki Reed + Ian Somerhalder

“You get to vote every single day with your dollar” 

Vampire Diaries’ Ian Somerhalder On How To Be A Kind Traveler With WildAid

“I think now more than ever, the travel community is responsible for not only an incredible amount of fossil fuels and burning hydrocarbons, but also a lot of animal products,” shared Somerhalder.

“By virtue of the fact Kind Traveler benefits organizations like WildAid, I think it lends itself to building to what’s now going to have to happen as a result of the recent election. I think what we’ve now learned is that in regard to the environment, the government is no longer looking out for it. As we’ve now seen, nothing can change without the populace. You have to have people behind you. It’s now going to be about conscious consumerism. If your vote didn’t count in the recent election, you get to vote every single day with your dollar. Who are you going to purchase from? Are they companies that are good stewards of the environment and the communities around them--- or are they not?  It’s about putting down Snapchat, Twitter, and social media and diving in as a human being and really starting to understand what and how you’re buying. And through that, we can stop the senseless slaughter of our environment and endangered species from corporations that don’t care.”

Many astounding wins for wildlife were shared however there’s still a lot of work to be done. 

WildAid Co-Founder, Peter Knights, shared that the latest market research from China shows an 82 percent decline in shark fin imports between 2012-2015 as its campaign and a government ban on shark fin at state banquets continue. Shark poaching has stopped altogether in the Galapagos Islands, where at one point 10,000 fins were seized in a single shipment. “This comes at the nexus of our two approaches: helping governments better enforce their protected areas, and reducing consumer demand, which has resulted in lower shark fin prices,” shares Knights. 

How To Travel Kindly By WildAid Founder Peter Knights

Back on land, when it comes to our highly endangered rhino friends, Knights shared that wholesale rhino horn prices in Vietnam have fallen by more than 50 percent. Much of this decrease has been attributed WildAid’s “Say No To Rhino Horn” campaign featuring Sir Richard Branson, Jackie Chan, and a host of Vietnamese celebrities and business leaders.

Knights also shed light in respect to the elephant poaching crisis: With China and Hong Kong both announcing bans on ivory sales, wholesale ivory prices have fallen by 50 percent. WildAid continues to educate, targeting consumer demand, to reduce the demand for ivory through campaigns with Oscar-winning actress, Lupita Nyong’o, African Wildlife Foundation and religious leaders of all denominations. 

“I don’t want my future children to only be able to see elephants in a zoo”

In other positive news shared, WildAid’s recent campaign on the pangolin—a small, scaly anteater highly trafficked for its meat and scales—helped to secure full international protection this year for all pangolin species.

WildAid Ambassador & Actor, Laura Linda Bradley, creator of the award-winning comedy, The Laura Show, showed her support and shared her voice on behalf of animals and what it means to be a Kind Traveler: 

How To Travel Kindly By Laura Linda Bradley

“Being a Kind Traveler is leaving the community and the environment better than you found it”

$1.5 million was raised at the gala, further mobilizing WildAid to lead the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking. 

One simple way travelers can help end the illegal wildlife trade is to vote with their travel dollars by supporting WildAid when they book hotels on Kind Traveler. A $10 donation to WildAid unlocks exclusive hotel rates—up to 25% off of advertised rates—in 13 cities (and growing!). With a 100% of donations going to WildAid, it’s possible to easily support its mission and simple message: When the buying stops, the killing can too. 

Other Ways You Can Travel Kindly + Support Endangered Wildlife:

  • Do not purchase items made from ivory or rhino horn
  • Encourage friends + fellow travelers to never purchase ivory or rhino horn
  • Do not eat at restaurants that serve shark fin soup + encourage those traveling with you to do the same
  • Help educate those around you on the impact of poaching 

Nico + Vinz

*All wildlife photography provided by Shannon Benson & WildAid; event photography by Megan Bayley

Kind Traveler CEO, Jessica Blotter, is a kindness curator who dreams of a world where people, animals, and the environment are treated with love and compassion. Follow her to discover where kindness can take you and insights on what it means to travel kindly.