19-year-old Kendall Jones, a cheerleader from Texas, has been hunting big game in Africa with her father for 10 years. Following in the footsteps of the reviled Melissa Bachman, she claims that her efforts to bag the Big 5 — elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and Cape buffalo — are in fact “conservation.” With two online petitions currently being waged to either stop her activities or prevent her from promoting them through social media, it is apparent that many others see the situation differently.
Jones travels to Africa regularly and purchases CITES-approved permits to hunt big game. She argues that by thinning out the herd or apex predators she is assisting diminishing populations to survive in reduced habitat. She also argues that the funds from her hunting licenses are used to support conservation activities in the countries in which she hunts. Critics counter that a donation of the cost of the hunt would achieve the same result without necessitating the death of endangered or vulnerable-listed animals. Commercial elephant hunt prices start at around $22,000, not including airfares.
To her credit, Jones has documented her own involvement in one incidence of tranquilizing a rhino so that it could be measured, DNA tested and treated for a wound. Again, she uses this as evidence of her conservationalist credentials. However, also documented on her Facebook page is her first African kill: an endangered white rhino. With a similarly skewed logic, Jones has also documented elephant kills and proudly argues that locals then turned up in droves to collect the “protein,” thereby allowing her to do her bit to feed the hungry. The fact that hundreds of thousands of other herd animals that she could shoot for food and that are not on the vulnerable list abound on the same plains seems to have escaped her, and this is the crux of the argument against her.
Jones’s claims to be a conservationalist are tenuous at best, and there are certainly many less ethically questionable ways to support African conservation efforts than by spending a large amount of money to travel to Africa to shoot elephants and lions. Similarly, if she as a dedicated hunter wishes to provide food for herself and others, leopards and rhinos are not the most logical targets. Jones has publicly stated that she wishes to front her own television show by January, 2015. The attention she draws by killing big trophy game and then posting smiling photos of herself hugging a dead leopard or standing atop a slain elephant goes a long way towards achieving that goal. Her career ambitions and the thrill of the kill are clearly her main motivations.
There are two online petitions currently open against Jones, one to stop Kendall Jones from hunting in Africa and one demanding that Facebook remove Kendall Jones’s page as it promotes animal cruelty. What is worth ackowledging here though is that all of Jones’s African big game hunting is legal and licensed. Demanding action from CITES and national governments to stop issuing licenses to hunt vulnerable and endangered African big game will ultimately do more to prevent trophy hunting. Unfortunately though, it would also pose the risk of driving determined hunters into the unregulated black market.
Photos by Kendall Jones via Facebook