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Kendall Jones’ Hunting Photo Controversy refers to the online backlash against Texas Tech University student Kendall Jones’ souvenir photographs of herself posing with endangered wild animals that she had killed while safari hunting in Africa.
On February 18th, 2014, Kendall Jones, a student and cheerleader at Texas Tech University, created her public Facebook page after signing a contract with the Sportsman Channel for a reality TV show about her, slated to air in January 2015. According to her Facebook profile description, she first went to Africa and witnessed her father hunting “the big five” (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros) as a child and first shot a rhino herself in South Africa in 2008, at the age of 13. Jones returned to Africa on May 23rd, 2014, and on June 6th, she posted a photograph of her posing with what appears to be a dead Zebra. In less than a month, the picture gained over 1,000 likes and more than 1,000 comments, the majority of which condemned the teenager for hunting.
Jones continued to post photos of the African animals she had hunted and killed, including a photo of a deceased elephant posted on June 11th, and a white springbok posted on June 19th. As of July 2014, the Facebook page has gained over 160,000 likes.
On June 22nd, AVAAZ user Neill A. created a petition titled “Facebook (CEO-Mark Zuckerberg): Remove the page of Kendall Jones that promotes animal cruelty!” He went on to explain why he believes Jones page should be taken down, saying:
“For the sake of all animals, especially the animals in the African region… where hunters are going for fun just to kill an animal! Some people have been reporting the pages lately but it seems Facebook is not concerned about what Kendall Jones is promoting in her page.”
In less than two weeks, the petition gained over 120,000 signatures.
“Kendall Jones is an American born hunter who has entered the continent and has been hunting African wildlife under the facade of conservation. She has publicly stated that she hopes to have a television hunting show and she is using endangered and helpless African animals as a stepping to further her popularity on social media platforms.
Within a week, the petition gained over 42,000 signatures.
News Media Coverage
On July 1st, 2014, Buzzfeed published a post titled “People Are Trying To Get Facebook To Ban A 19-Year-Old Cheerleader Who Hunts Endangered Animals,” which featured coverage of Jones’ Facebook page and the petitions against it. The page and surrounding controversy were covered by many other sites the same day including The Huffington Post and the Daily Mail.
In response to the negative comments her photos were receiving, many of which attacked her for hunting, specifically endangered animals, Jones posted a lengthy explanation of her photos posed with a dead rhino, lion and cheetah on June 25th, saying:
“Ok I’m gonna explain for the 53567544th time. The rhino was a green hunt, meaning it was darted and immobilized in order to draw blood for testing, DNA profiling, microchip ping the horn and treating a massive leg injury most likely caused by lions. People try to say that lions will not attack a hippo, rhino or elephant, quiet the contrary. Lions attack and kill the young of these species. The adults try to fight the lions off and are regularly successful, but do get injuries in the process. As for the lion that I shot with my bow, it was within a 45,000 acre fence with other lions and plains game. It’s in S Africa, so yes it was within a fence, but 45,000 acres is the equivalent to 70 square miles and considered fair chase. Lions that have come in and taken over a pride, not only kick the older lion out, but will also kill all of his cubs so that the lioness will come into heat again. Controlling the male lion population is important within large fenced areas like these in order to make sure the cubs have a high survival rate. Funds from a hunt like this goes partially to the government for permits but also to the farm owner as an incentive to keep and raise lions on their property. If there was no value, the farmers would kill all of the lions to have a higher survival and breeding rate in their plains game populations. Lions take a toll on plains game, thus farmers need money to purchase plains game and change out bloodlines within their lion prides to prevent interbreeding. Now to the leopard, this was a free ranging leopard in Zimbabwe on communal land. The money for the permit goes to the communal council and to their village people. Within this area of approximately 250,000 acres, 107 head of cattle was killed in a single year due to leopard kills. Leopard populations have to be controlled in certain areas. So yes, my efforts do go to conservation efforts and are all fair chase, not canned hunts. In fact these are very mentally and physically challenging hunts, on foot tracking and walking miles and miles a day.
On July 1st, Jones launched a Facebook group for those who support her titled “Support Kendall.” She explains her reasons for creating the second Facebook page on her original page, saying:
“Lot’s of folks out there trying to get this page shut down and unfortunately Facebook is removing content that promotes the safe and ethical conservation and research of Rhinos. Because of that, we’ve launched a secondary page where supporters can help us stand tall in our freedom to share and promote the 100% legal activities that hunters and conservationists continue to engage in. Let’s #Support Kendall