A live jaguar used to represent Brazil’s wildlife at an Olympic torch ceremony in the country was shot and killed shortly after the event.
According to The New York Times, the jaguar was a 17-year-old female named Juma, who resided at a zoo at Manaus, a military base in the Brazilian Amazon.
Following Monday’s torch ceremony, where Juma was chained and on display at Manaus’ Jungle Warfare Instruction Center, the jaguar was brought to her exhibit at the zoo. Shortly after returning, Juma escaped her enclosure, but was not at risk of getting out of the zoo.
In a statement regarding the big cat’s death, the army’s press office said a team of soldiers tranquilized Juma, who was a “docile animal used to living among people at the center” first, but later shot and killed the jaguar when she moved to attack a solider during her recapture. The military said the lethal action was taken to protect the team.
Jaguars are an important emblem throughout Brazil. The animal is a mascot for both the infantry battalion and the Manaus military. Additionally, a cartoon jaguar named Ginga will serve as Brazil’s team mascot during the Olympics Games this summer in Rio de Janeiro — another reason why Juma was put on display at the torch ceremony in the first place.
While the military is standing beside their choices, the Olympic Games Organizing Committee has released an apology.
“We were wrong to allow the Olympic Torch, a symbol of peace and of the union among the peoples to be displayed alongside a wild animal in chains,” the local Olympic Games Organizing Committee said in a statement. “This scene is contrary to our beliefs and values. We are very sad with the outcome that happened after the passing of the torch. We guarantee that we will not see more situations like this in the Rio 2016 Games.”
For many, this apology was not enough. After news of Juma’s death spread, the Olympic Games’ social networks were overwhelmed with negative comments from animal lovers. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also spoke out against The Games in regards to the incident.
“PETA urges everyone who is upset by the needless death of this jaguar, the gorilla Harambe, or countless other exploited wild animals to stay far away from any business that puts living beings on display for human amusement,” PETA said in a written statement.
A veterinarian with Ibana, Brazil’s environmental protection agency, echoed PETA’s sentiment, telling The Associated Press, “The incident happened due to the simple fact that it was a jaguar and wild animals will always be wild animals. There is no way to predict their reaction to this kind of situation.”