A US cheerleader who has posed in Facebook photos with a toothy smile next to lions, zebras, leopards and rhinos she has killed, is shrugging off a firestorm of criticism, saying she will "continue to hunt and spread the knowledge of hunting and wildlife conservation."
Nineteen-year-old Kendall Jones, who went on her first big game hunt to Africa when she was 9, calls the photos a testament to her hunting skills and dedication to game preservation.
"I knew when I posted these pictures that there would be people for and against my Facebook page," the Texas Tech cheerleader told the Cleburne Times-Review.
"I really am shocked at how rude many people are by name-calling and swearing. I have actually had several death threats, which are going to be investigated. Online bullying and making direct threats is a crime."
The uproar prompted a South African to post a petition on change.org calling for Jones to be banned from African states.
"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," said the petition, which has drawn more than 30,000 signatures.
The Dallas News reported that Jones claimed to have signed a development deal in January with the Sportsman Channel, but Tom Caraccioli, a spokesman for the channel, said while it "enthusiastically supports ethical, fair-chase hunting and all of its participants - like Kendall Jones - we are not prepared to discuss any potential projects involving her."
As the firestorm increased, Jones has sounded an alarm, saying that "lots of folks" were trying to get her Facebook page shut down and charged that Facebook "is removing content that promotes the safe and ethical conservation and research of Rhinos."
In response, Jones said she was launching a Support Kendall page on Facebook "where supporters can help us stand tall."
Her original Facebook page drew the ire of critics upset by the photos and her cheerful recitation of her big game hunting adventures, including her first big kills in 2009: "This time I got my leopard, and also took down a hippo to get 6 of the Dangerous 7 at the age of 14! I was lucky enough to have all of my hunting adventures professionally videoed and put onto DVD."
In another entry, a smiling Jones poses next to a slain springbok above the caption: "Another harvest for today. ... White springbok, it's 1 of the 4 colour shades of this animal! And let me tell you it's one of my favorite kinds of meat so far!"
In comments on her Facebook page, one critic, Alexis Lee, wrote: "I'm glad you're enjoying taking the lives of these beautiful, exotic animals. It's nice to know that my children/grandchildren may not be able to see them for themselves one day."
Teddi Fishman added: "Why? Zebras are peaceful herbivores that usually don't even run away. What joy could there possibly be in hunting them, unless you just like to destroy beautiful things."
Angel Shifflett: "Seriously? What planet are you living on? These animals she is killing do NOT need to be thinned out, in fact some of them are endangered. How is killing these animals helping animal conservation? It's one thing for tribes in that area to hunt for meals. She is doing it for sport and bragging about it. Its inhumane and cruel. You are entitled to your opinion, but so are we."
But Jones also has a solid line of supporters.
Gregg Karal: "Keep the spirit alive Kendall. Don't let any of this noise distract you from doing your part to conserve nature. ... You have helped to provide nourishment to countless villagers with the meat you provide. Hunt on!!!"
Glennette Beach added: "When you eat the meat, you are a true hunter! Enjoy your life! Keep hunting!!"
Jones has even taken on some critics head to head
After Steve Gordon wrotes "Get out of africa, go back to texas. africa is a beautiful place with beautiful animals and beautiful people, you don't belong there," Jones replied, "Actually looking at moving to S Africa soon."
Jones said she was too young at 9 to hold the guns her father brought on her first hunt and waited until she was 13 and could bag one of the Big 5 animals (lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and White/Black rhino).
"Although I had many other opportunities to shoot animals I wanted to save it for the Big 5, so the first animal I ever shot was a White Rhino with a .416 Remington!!"
One photo, which provoked some of the sharpest criticism, appears to show Jones next to an endangered rhino, but she explained that the animal was alive and well and was being treated for a leg injury.
"I felt very lucky to be part of such a great programme and procedure that helps the White Rhino population through conservation."
- USA Today