In defense of Texas huntress and conservationist Kendall Jones

Is huntress Kendall Jones doing more to save animals than the animal lovers who hate her?

For big-game hunters in Africa, there’s said to be a “Big Five” among animals they’d like to bag: the lion, the elephant, the Cape buffalo, the leopard and the white/black rhinoceros. You might add a sixth: Kendall Jones, the 19-year-old Texas Tech cheerleader who’s been hunting big game in Africa with her father since age 9 and has had the temerity to post on her Facebook page photos of her blond and photogenic self, her weapons and a range of animals — a lion, a hippo, a leopard, a white rhino — many of them killed by Jones’ own gun.

Death threats poured in against Jones. A “Kill Kendall Jones” page flourished on Facebook — at the same time that Facebook removed photos of Jones’ kills from her own Facebook page on the ground that they violated a Facebook prohibition against “graphic images shared for sadistic effect or to celebrate or glorify violence,” according to a Facebook spokesperson quoted in the Washington Times. Facebook did eventually remove the “Kill Kendall Jones” page after a few days, but the sentiment remained.

After Jones gave an interview to TMZ titled “Why Does Facebook Want Me Dead?,” a commenter wrote: “People don’t want kendall dead — just to use her as target practice, feel a lot of pain, bleed some, get stitches — repeat. It’s that simple.”

And then there was this, as reported by CBC: “A [100,000-signature] petition circulated on the White House’s website demands that Jones be banned from Africa. Anonymous commenters said Jones should be hunted down like the animals she targeted. Rape threats followed. Some called her a ‘slut’ and ‘bimbo.’ Misdirected rage assailed other blond women who shared the name Kendall Jones.”

Yet, when Katniss Everdeen of “The Hunger Games” wields her bow and arrow, she’s hailed by feminists as “feisty” and “independent.” When Kendall Jones wields hers, she’s denounced as a shameless self-promoter who wears short shorts and makeup (horrors!) and posts mean memes about vegetarians (see this Facebook sample).

Writing in Slate, Laura Smith attributed the anti-Jones vitriol to the fact that Jones is a woman and women are supposed to be caring nurturers. Smith is right, but not because Jones violates conventional stereotypes about women’s gentle and nurturing nature.

Jones offends animal-rights bleeding hearts and other self-proclaimed environmental progressives to the point that some of them would like to kill her because she puts an attractive face onto arguments that many policy analysts and scientists who have actually studied wildlife populations in Africa have been making for years: That the most effective way to preserve endangered species, and even to reverse their endangerment, is to create a market for them, giving locals in those countries an incentive to conserve them. One of those incentives is allowing limited hunting, with hunters such as Jones and her father paying high prices to individuals, nonprofits and government entities for the privilege of bagging game.

Yes, the African white rhino — Jones boasts of bagging one at age 13 — is an endangered species. There are only 20,000 of them left, mostly because of rampant illegal poaching (the rhino’s horn in powdered form is believed in China to have medicinal properties). But as a 2010 article in the Economist reported, 16,000 of those rhinos live in South Africa, where the government a few years back instituted a policy of allowing farmers to own wild animals on their property, with the right to sell them and their offspring. The policy — catering to wealthy trophy hunters, tourists and others — has resulted in a surge in the South African white rhino population, which had numbered only 20 individuals in 1900.

A Jan. 15 online article in Conservation Magazine, published by the University of Washington, detailed similar successes by other African governments in using property rights and other economic incentives to boost wild animal populations.

These strategies aren’t new in the United States. In 1937, a group of duck hunters formed Ducks Unlimited, a nonprofit that has saved millions of acres of waterfowl-hosting wetlands — because duck hunters like hunting ducks.

Kendall Jones is part of an effort to use this approach to save the larger animals of Africa from extinction. Who’s the better conservationist: Jones, or the huge number of people who wish her harm?

Charlotte Allen writes frequently about feminism, politics and religion. Follow her on Twitter @MeanCharlotte.

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