A Texas cheerleader whose African big-game hunting exploits have her in the cross-hairs of critics claims she is a conservationist in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt.
A petition on Change.org had nearly 100,000 signatures as of early Thursday seeking to ban and deny access for 19-year-old Kendall Hunter to Africa, where she’s bagged big game animals like lions, leopards and more in the name of wildlife conservation, according to her Facebook profile.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Zimbabwe and can't wait until the day I get to come back,” Jones wrote last week. “Zimbabwe has some of the most beautiful scenery of anywhere I have ever been and Victoria Falls is truly a wonder of the world.”
But not everyone shares Jones’ enthusiasm for hunting big game on the African plains.
“Kendall Jones is an American-born hunter who has entered the continent and has been hunting African wildlife under the facade of conservation,” the petition reads. “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 stone to further her popularity on social media platforms.”
Jones, of Cleburne, Texas, began her hunting career with her father, taking her first trip to Zimbabwe at age 9. She was hooked immediately.
“As badly as I wanted to shoot something, I was just too small to hold the guns my dad had brought,” her Facebook profile reads. “I became fascinated with the culture over there and visited one of the elementary schools to deliver candy, coloring books and soccer balls to the underprivileged children. This was an eye-opening experience for me to see how other children my age lived in a Third World country.”
In 2008, Jones shot her first animal — a white rhinoceros — in South Africa at age 13, and also brought back other animals, including an impala, kudu and mountain reedbuck. A year later, she returned to finish her quest for Africa’s so-called Big 5 — lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros — and took down an elephant, a charging buffalo and a lion.
“Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to take a leopard on this trip, so I returned 2 weeks later for another 14-day safari,” Jones’ Facebook profile continues. “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 [sic] and put onto DVD.”
Jones, a sophomore majoring in marketing and sports therapy at Texas Tech University, is also a member of the school’s cheerleading squad. She has seemingly taken the criticism in stride, citing the hunting exploits of a former U.S. president while saying some people will “never understand.”
“Our 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, has been labeled by many as the Father of Conservation,” Jones wrote. “He helped create and establish the United States Forestry Service, which would later become the National Forest Service. Roosevelt created five national parks (doubling the previously existing number); signed the landmark Antiquities Act and used its special provisions to unilaterally create 18 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon; set aside 51 federal bird sanctuaries, four national game refuges, and more than 100 million acres' worth of national forests. But he was a hunter, too, right? He killed the same species that hunters now chase today under a mound of anti-hunting pressure. Yet, how can it be possible that someone can love the earth, and take from the Earth in the name of conservation? For some folks, they'll never understand. For the rest of us ... we were born that way. God Bless Teddy.”