Cleburne resident Kendall Jones on Thursday said she remains shocked by the worldwide attention focused on her and her recent hunting safari in Africa.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals meanwhile voiced opposition to Jones’ claims that hunting aids conservation efforts.
“[Wednesday] #kendalljones was the No. 4 trending hashtag in the United States,” Jones said. “I knew that I would have my fans and those that did not agree with hunting, but I had no idea that it would gather the media attention that it has gathered. It has definitely made me aware of what online bullying is.”
Kendall, 19, through pictures and posts, chronicled her recent African adventure. Numerous pictures show Kendall posed with wildlife she shot or tagged while others show her displaying firearms or crossbows.
Her page, www.facebook.com/Kendalltakeswild, exploded with comments running the gamut from support to disgust.
Jones, in a June 29 interview with the Times-Review, thanked her supporters while taking exception with her detractors.
“I’m really am shocked at how rude many people are by name calling and swearing,” Jones said in the earlier interview. “I have had several death threats, which are going to be investigated.”
Interest in Jones, pro and con, increased dramatically after the article, and likes on her Facebook page increased dramatically. A second Facebook page, Stop Kendall Jones, created in response to Jones’ page, has registered 1,571 likes, calls for, among other things, banning Jones from Facebook. A third Facebook page, Support Kendall Jones, which Jones created in response to negative comments on her original page, attracted 75,000 likes its first day.
“But Facebook deleted it for no reason,” Jones said.
Media outlets throughout the U.S. and beyond also came calling, Jones said, from the Metroplex TV stations to CNN, FoxSports, Good Morning America and Nightline.
“I’ve heard from newspapers from London, Cape Town, Norway and Germany,” Jones said. “People magazine, Cosmopolitan and TMZ just to name a few. Oh, and the Cleburne Times-Review.”
Jones, who has since returned to the U.S., has so far only talked to the Times-Review. The Cleburne High School graduate and Texas Tech University sophomore said she’s approaching her unexpected fame with caution, but believes it may also help her spread her thoughts on hunting and conservation.
“Any direct threats are being reported to the proper authorities,” Jones said. “I’m just taking extra precautions by staying around friends and family and paying extra attention to my surroundings. I believe most of this is just talk, but a girl can never be too careful.
“No [other] problems yet other than nonstop requests from the media. My family is all aware of what’s going on and are very supportive. My dad was with me in Africa and has dealt with the majority of the media requests.
“At this time I have had plenty of opportunities to do interviews to a worldwide audience, but I am going to let things settle down a bit before I do a live interview. Maybe sometime soon, but not at this time.”
Hunters, Jones said in her earlier interview with the Times-Review, probably care more about wildlife and conservation than most people.
Money generated by hunting in Africa helps both residents and conservation causes, Jones argued. Jones said she believes at least some people now have a better understanding of hunting and conservation because of her Facebook posts.
“I’ve actually had several messages from people thanking me for the explanations that I have given along with my pictures and the factual posts that I put up on my wall,” Jones said. “Most of them didn’t agree with hunting to begin with, bun after hearing my reasoning and explanation, they started to understand how hunting actually helps conservation. It’s always nice to explain the benefits to someone and see them change from a hater to a supporter. My goal is to get the message out so people can become more educated on the subject and understand that hunting is a vital role in the wildlife conservation effort.”
Jones said this marks her fifth trip to Africa and that a crew filmed the hunts of her recent safari, which she plans to use in a TV show she hopes to host next year.
“We’re moving forward with the outdoor show,” Jones said. “Through this journey I realized that I want to fully explain how hunting and conservation work together within the show that people can become educated and fully understand the subject.
“I think that has been the biggest eye opener through all of this, that people don’t understand that hunting helps provide a balanced and sustainable population of animals around the world. I hope my show will touch on that to help people understand us hunters and cast a more positive light on hunting as a whole.”
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk disputed Jones’ claims and questioned her motives.
“Claiming that hunting somehow helps animal populations is as ridiculous as saying that killing people is a solution to world hunger,” Newkirk said. “Ms. Jones’ social media accounts show that her only interest is in slaughtering wildlife for a cheap thrill and in a desperate quest to secure a macabre reality show.
“This young woman has won something else, piople’s disgust at her heartless self-congratulation in ending animals’ lives for fun. Hunting licenses have plummeted by a third over the past two decades with most people preferring to hike, kayak, snowboard and live and let live, enjoying the outdoors without wiping out those who live in it. So it’s no surprise when the public reacts with outrage to a small person who kills animals for fun.”
Jones said she’s received words of support from several officials at Texas Tech University, including her cheerleading coach.
“My school stands behind me and just wanted to remind me that I am the face of the school and even though I don’t represent the school in my hunting activities they expected that I would keep things clean and not fire back at the ugly [Facebook] comments. I fully respect Texas Tech and would only want to uphold my image with the school.”
Jones said she somewhat agrees with the credo that any publicity is good publicity.
“Anything you do is not going to be agreeable with 100 percent of the people so you take the bad with the good,” Jones said. “I’ve had a lot of strong supporters while also catching heat from the non supporters. My Facebook has grown in likes by over 200,000 people in the last 48 hours. This shows me that even though there is a lot of negative publicity, with it comes the supporters, which share good publicity. When it’s all said and done, my fans will always stick with me and support me and that is what’s important. I want to continue to hunt and spread the knowledge of conservation to my fan base.”
A large degree of her notoriety, Jones said, no doubt comes down that she’s a 19-year-old woman who enjoys hunting as opposed to say a 50-year-old male hunter.
“I definitely agree with that,” Jones said. “I’ve seen all kinds of men with animals posted on Facebook over the years and there was never an uproar for them. In fact, my dad has posted pictures time and time again and never had any media coverage.
“I feel that since I am a woman, cheerleader and college student it has blown up the publicity, but this is a part of my life and it always has been. I grew up hunting, in a hunting family, and was taught at an early age about hunting and conservation.
“I want to promote women and hunting. It’s time to get the youth and women more involved in the outdoors and hunting. I think it’s important to get kids involved in the outdoors at a young age and teach them about hunting and conservation. Hunting has been a part of history. President Theodore Roosevelt was a great hunter and known as the father of conservation.”
Jones said she and her family take the conservation aspect as seriously as they do the hunting.
“My family owns a ranch and raises over 20 species of animals including oryx, addax and Grevy’s zebra, which are all threatened,” Jones said. “If it weren’t for the value that hunting brings, these species wouldn’t continue to be raised and flourish. Only the older male species are taken from the herd allowing the younger, better genetics to take over and breed. Hunting provides the income to game farmers to be able to do this and in turn herd numbers are growing by leaps and bounds.”