June 22, 2016
A jaguar representing the mascot of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was shot dead after being featured in an Olympic torch ceremony in Manaus, Brazil yesterday, according to a statement.
Soon after the torch ceremony, the animal, named Juma, escaped from its handlers. The jaguar was then tranquilized, but a soldier fired a single shot as the jaguar approached him. The incident took place at a zoo attached to the military training center that hosted the ceremony.
"We made a mistake in permitting the Olympic torch, a symbol of peace and unity, to be exhibited alongside a chained wild animal. This image goes against our beliefs and our values," the Rio 2016 local organizing committee said in a statement.
Jaguars are a nearly threatened species already extinct in Uruguay and El Salvador. "Ginga," a smiling cartoon jaguar, is the mascot of the Brazilian Olympic games.
Ipaam, the Amazonas government authority that supervises the use of wild animals, reported that Juma had been used in the ceremony without its authorization.
"No request was made to authorize the participation of the jaguar 'Juma' in the event of the Olympic torch," Ipaam said in a statement.
Juma's killing immediately sparked outrage among animal rights groups. Animal rights advocates expressed grief and condemnation on Twitter and Facebook.
This incident comes only weeks after a gorilla was killed in a Cincinnati zoo when a child fell into its enclosure.
"When will we learn? Wild animals held captive and forced to do things that are frightening, sometimes painful, and always unnatural are ticking time bombs — our actions put them and humans at risk," Brittany Peet, director of captive animal law enforcement at PETA, said in a statement.
The Rio 2016 Olympic Games have also been challenged by cancellations from athletes, reporters and spectators because of fears of the Zika virus.
The games are scheduled to begin Aug. 5.
By Heather Dockray