Kendall Jones -- the teenage hunter whose animal kills have so enraged people -- is not the cold-blooded killer she's been made out to be ... so says her father.
Cody Jones tells TMZ ... some of his daughter's killings were humane. The pic of the dead lion, for example, was a mercy killing, he says, because the animal was old and unable to keep up with its pack. Kendall's dad says the lion's fate was sealed ... a younger lion would surely have killed it.
And he says his daughter has taken heat over the pic of her posing with a rhino. He says the rhino is NOT dead -- it was injured by a lion and later tranquilized and taken to a vet.
As for the animals Kendall did kill ... her dad says the leopards, elephants and lions are not on the endangered species list.
PETA isn't buying the explanation Kendall's dad is selling, telling us, "Her only interest is slaughtering wildlife for a cheap thrill," adding she's showboating "in a desperate quest to secure a macabre reality show."