Photograph by Jair Araujo, Diario do Amazonas, AFP
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This jaguar, known as Juma, was used in an Olympic torch ceremony in Manaus, Brazil, June 20.

Photograph by Jair Araujo, Diario do Amazonas, AFP

Jaguar Paraded at Olympic Torch Ceremony Shot Dead

The big cat was exhibited chained up in Manaus, Brazil, prompting outrage. Olympics officials say nothing of this sort will happen again.

In the 1900 Olympic games, live pigeon shooting was an official event. In 2014, authorities around Sochi, Russia, were criticized for rounding up stray dogs. And now, a jaguar from the Amazon was killed after it was featured in a torch ceremony for this summer's games in Brazil.

The jaguar was shot Monday after it escaped from its handlers at a zoo attached to an army training center in Manaus, the Brazilian military said in a statement. The jaguar was exhibited, chained up, during a torch ceremony there.

After the ceremony, the big cat—known as Juma—reportedly approached a soldier, despite being tranquilized. The soldier fired a single shot, which killed Juma. The incident has prompted a wave of criticism for even having the jaguar on display in the first place.

“We made a mistake in permitting the Olympic torch, a symbol of peace and unity, to be exhibited alongside a chained wild animal," the organizing committee Rio 2016 said in a statement. "This image goes against our beliefs and our values. We guarantee that there will be no more such incidents at Rio 2016.”

Ipaam, the Amazonas state government environmental authority that oversees the use of wild animals, is investigating the incident and says the display of the animal may have been illegal, since it didn't have records of the proper permits.

"When will people (and institutions) stop with this sick need to show power and control by confining, taming and showcasing wild animals?" the Rio de Janeiro-based animal rights group Animal Freedom Union wrote on its Facebook page.

Luke Dollar, a conservation scientist who heads National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative, says, "The day and age in which the display of such a magnificent creature 'brought to heel' as a symbol of power or influence is in the past, and I would hope that this incident will serve as a poignant indicator to the world at large that these practices are no longer acceptable."

A smiling jaguar known as Ginga is the mascot for the Brazilian Olympic team.

"The symbol of the jaguar, in the absence of one on a chain, is just as powerful, and—I would argue—much more compassionate," says Dollar.

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