By Amanda Biederman
This 19-year-old's love for hunting large African game - and posting pictures of herself beaming brightly next to the carcasses - earned her a significant amount of hate when the internet became aware of her photos yesterday.
A Change.org petition to force Jones to remove her photos reads: "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."
Many of the accusations against Jones have been grossly inaccurate. First of all, none of the animals that Jones hunts are actually endangered.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has a 7-point scale that ranges as follows: Least concern, near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, extinct in the wild, and extinct.
According to reports, Jones has killed a lion, rhino, antelope, leopard, elephant, zebra and hippopotamus.
According to the IUCN, the African lion, African elephant, Mountain zebra, and hippopotamus are all labeled as "vulnerable." The species of antelope she hunted (Sable antelope) is labeled as least concern. The African leopard is labeled as "near threatened."
The only animal that actually makes the endangered list is the White Rhino, which Jones did not actually kill (she tranquilized the animal and then posed with it). Why did she capture this animal? Apparently, it needed medical attention.
So no, Change.org - To the best of our knowledge, Kendall Jones does not hunt endangered animals.
Next, what many people do not realize is that by paying the small business ranchers who manage these animals, Jones provides money that helps drive the economies of local villages. And by paying the ranchers to kill a few select individuals, they are able to maintain the rest of their controlled populations.
According to figures from Zabezi Co., Jones likely pays $400-500 per day to go off on these hunts (which often take two weeks or more). Although Jones has not (to my knowledge) revealed the platforms she uses to pay for her hunts, she has said that both the money and meat go back into local villages.
In one photo, Jones stands on the carcass of a dead elephant, surrounded by "part of the village that showed up to take a little protein home."
Yes, some people in Africa do eat elephants. And other animals that seem strange to us, for that matter. Even some Americans eat lion meat.
Another important point that Jones has brought up (although most reporters glaze over the quote) is that by killing a few male individuals, she helps keep the populations under control. Guess what? That's actually a real concern in these types of populations.
Take, for instance, the African lion. Due to male aggression, these populations are meant to be structured with female-biased sex ratios. However, this ratio is often altered in ranch populations. And if there are too many males in a population, the dynamic becomes much more aggressive. And if male lions feel threatened by other individuals, they will kill other lions' newborn cubs. Sometimes, we need to intervene to save a species.
Additionally, there's the fact that many of the animals Jones hunts actually pose a threat to other more vulnerable species. For instance, the Pygmy chimpanzee, Dama gazelle, and Aye-Aye lemur are all endangered African species. Who makes up these animals' predators? Leopards and lions.
Hunting exotic animals might seem strange to the outside observer, but it makes up a large part of local African economies and, if done right, can actually help these animals to survive in the long-term.
That's why Jones labels herself as a conservationist. And that is why her actions do not warrant the hate that she has received this week.
What I found most compelling about this situation is that is reminded me of a similar controversy last November, when hunter Melissa Bachman posted a picture of herself alongside an African lion.
Many people are complaining that posing alongside a dead animal is inappropriate. But all it took was a quick Facebook search for me to find several of my male friends who hunt. Turns out, hunters post pictures of their kills quite regularly.
Yet somehow, I can't help but wonder if think there's something not quite right here. Why do these controversies seem to always involve fairly young, attractive women? Why do reports label Jones as a "blonde Texan cheerleader"? Why are we all blaming Jones and not her father, who took her along on her first hunt when she was 9 years old? Many of the pictures that Jones has uploaded are clearly from when she was a young child. Someone encouraged her to take these photos - and I'm willing to bet her father was behind the camera.
It's almost as if we're uncomfortable with a young girl being attracted to hunting - as if there's something wrong with that. So we attack her, making claims that are entirely untrue and brush aside quotes telling her side of the story - as if she's not credible.
After all, what would a 19-year-old blonde cheerleader know about hunting or conservation? Somehow, I think she knows a little bit more about it than we do.