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Olympic jaguar mascot shot dead in Brazil

June 22, 2016

A jaguar used as part of the Olympic torch ceremony in Brazil has been shot and killed after escaping. The Olympic Committee said it was "very unhappy" about the tragic shooting.

Brasilien Der Jaguar und die olympische Fackel
Image: Reuters/M. Melo

The endangered feline was shot in the head with a pistol after four tranquilizer darts failed to make an impact, the Brazilian military said on Tuesday.

The animal escaped from its handler shortly after it was trotted next to the Olympic torch's passage through the Amazonian city of Manaus.

"It escaped and ran off as it was being moved from one area to another in the zoo," said Colonel Luiz Gustavo Evelyn.

Soldiers were forced to protect a veterinarian, Evelyn said.

Juma the jaguar was kept at the Jungle Warfare Instruction Center in Manaus alongside a half dozen other jaguars. The military maintains a zoo at the center, which the Olympic torch passed through as it travels around Brazil ahead of the August 5 opening ceremony in Rio.

"Juma was a docile animal used to living among people at the center," the military said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, this occurred the day of the torch's passage," Evelyn said. "The animal participated in the event because the torch went through the zoo."

The Rio Olympic committee said it was saddened by the news.

"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 organizing committee said on its Facebook page.

"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."

The reclusive jaguar is the biggest feline in the Americas and weighs up 135 kilograms (300 pounds).

cw/bk (AFP, AP)