Moments after being used as a symbol for Amazonian wildlife, a jaguar was shot dead by the military after it escaped following an Olympic torch-bearing ceremony in Brazil.
The 17-year-old female jaguar, named Juma, was being featured as a prop in a Rio 2016 Olympic ceremony in Manaus, northern Brazil, on Monday. During the event, held at a zoo attached to a military training center, the jaguar was chained up as torch bearers and heavily armed military guards posed with the animal for photographs.
At some point after the photo-op, Juma managed to escape. The Brazilian military said that the jaguar was first hit with tranquilizer darts, but upon approaching a soldier, they decided to kill it with a single live shot.
Reuters reports that the local Olympic committee who organized the event released a statement that read: "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."
It concluded: "We guarantee that there will be no more such incidents at Rio 2016.”
However, people are understandably still upset about the shooting. This species is the largest feline native to the Americas and has frequently been used as an icon throughout the long history of Mesoamerica. The IUCN Red List classifies the jaguar as “near threatened,” and is prepared to increase the severity of this status as it struggles to cope with the continued threat of poachers and the ongoing destruction of its natural habitat.
In a sad twist of irony, a cartoon jaguar is also the official mascot for Brazil’s team in the Rio 2016 Olympics.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in a blog post: “Everyone who is upset by the needless death of this jaguar, the gorilla Harambe, or countless other exploited wild animals should stay far away from any business that puts living beings on display for human 'amusement' – and should ask friends and family to do the same.”