Controversial photos: Texas Tech cheerleader on a mission to conserve African wildlife? Some aren’t so sure

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(CNN) — A Texas Tech cheerleader has become the center of controversy for pictures she took next to exotic animals that she killed herself.

The pictures have tempers flaring.

19-year-old Kendall Jones’ Facebook posts say she is on a mission to conserve African wildlife — but some aren’t so sure.

Anti-hunting activists are taking to social media to voice their disapproval — and an online petition was started to get the girl off of Facebook.

But in just one day, her page has skyrocketed to more than 60,000 likes!

FOX News reports Jones began her hunting career with her father — taking her first trip to Zimbabwe at the age of nine. She was immediately hooked.

“As badly as I wanted to shoot something, I was just too small to hold the guns my dad had brought. 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,” Jones’ Facebook profile reads.

FOX News reports in 2008, Jones shot her first animal — a white rhinoceros — in South Africa at the age of 13.

A year later, she returned to finish her quest for Africa’s so-called “Big Five” — a lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. Jones 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. 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’ Facebook profile reads.

CNN reached out to Tim Gafford, president of Lubbock, Texas’ chapter of Safari Club International.

The group of hunters specializes in wildlife conservation.

Gafford says it’s not about just getting a kill.

“You don’t just go out and kill everything you see. You have a professional hunter that tells you what to do and when,” Gafford said.

Gafford says African safaries are some of the best well-organized hunts and businesses in the world — and the profit goes both ways.

“The money we raise and the money we spend go to conserving the very animals,” Gafford said.

This isn’t a cheap hobby.

Hunts like these can cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In a statement from Jones’ family, they say more than $160,000 has been spent on the trip without travel and lodging.

Meanwhile, FOX News reports a petition on Change.org had nearly 100,000 signatures as of early Thursday seeking to ban and deny access for Jones to Africa.

Jones has this message written on her Facebook page:

“Our 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, has been labeled by many as the Father of Conservation. 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.”

CLICK HERE to visit Kendall Jones’ Facebook page.

CLICK HERE for the FOX News report on Kendall Jones.

CLICK HERE to view the Change.org petition to ban Kendall Jones from Africa.

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