By Lisa Maria Garza
DALLAS (Reuters) - Facebook has removed some photographs of a Texas teenager posing with freshly killed animals she hunted during a recent safari in South Africa that had been criticized by users as inappropriate, the company said on Wednesday.
Kendall Jones, 19, a cheerleader at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, set off a social media storm after she posted a series of photos of animals she killed, smiling in one picture as she hugs a lifeless leopard hanging limply from her arms.
Facebook said some photos were deleted from her page because they violated its policies regarding animal images.
"We remove reported content that promotes poaching of endangered species, the sale of animals for organized fight or content that includes extreme acts of animal abuse," the company said. It did not provide specific information about the photos removed.
Comre Safaris, a company in South Africa that organizes licensed hunts, said the number of animals killed by Jones fell within a quota set by the country's wildlife department.
Jones defended her actions, saying in a Facebook post she took inspiration from former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, a hunter and conservationist.
"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," Jones said.
But criticism was heavy, with one post branding the hunts barbaric garnering 20,000 comments. More than 130,000 people signed an online petition asking Facebook to remove Jones' photos, saying they promoted animal cruelty.
"You can see the thrill in her expression and eyes from these photos that she enjoyed the KILLING of these animals," read one post.
Many cash-strapped African governments allow a small number of big game animals to be killed each year, using the money from the sale of hunting licenses for conservation.
The hunts are held under international guidelines meant to ensure they do not adversely affect overall species numbers.
(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney)