The New York Times reported on Wednesday that a soldier in Brazil shot and killed a jaguar who was used in an Olympic torch event this week, prompting an outpouring of anger from animal lovers and a public apology from the local Games organizing committee.
The jaguar, a 17-year-old female named Juma, was kept at a zoo that is part of a military base in Manaus, the largest city in the Brazilian Amazon. She apparently escaped an enclosure on Monday but was not at risk of fleeing the zoo. The military said in a statement that Juma had been tranquilized but was shot after she moved toward a soldier, and that the action was taken to protect a team that was trying to recapture her.
The jaguar, a mascot for an infantry battalion, had appeared earlier that day at an event for the Olympic Games this summer in Rio de Janeiro, and she was photographed in chains alongside soldiers and a torch runner holding a flame. The Olympic team mascot for Brazil is a cartoon jaguar named Ginga, and an image of the animal also appears on the emblem of the Manaus military base, where the event took place.
The Games organizing committee said in a statement that it had been an error “to allow the Olympic torch, symbol of peace and unity among peoples, to be displayed next to a chained wild animal.” The committee said that it was “saddened by the outcome” and would not allow similar situations during the Summer Games.
“Wild animals held captive and forced to do things that are frightening, sometimes painful, and always unnatural are ticking time bombs — captivity puts animal and human lives at risk,” PETA said in a written statement.