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'It's the Animal That Pays the Price': Brazilian Olympic Jaguar Mascot Shot Dead

A photo op for the Olympic torch lighting ceremony turned tragic yesterday when a jaguar mascot escaped and was shot by officials.
Image by Jair Araujo via Getty Images

In more bad news for both the 2016 Olympics and the lives of captive animals around the world, a jaguar was shot and killed by a Brazilian soldier following its use in an Olympic torch ceremony.

The jaguar, who was named Juma, was taken from its cage inside the Brazilian Army Zoo on Monday for an Olympic torch ceremony in Manaus, located in northern Brazil. The jaguar was brought out with a large metal chain around its neck; after the photo op was over, the animal got loose from its handlers. After taking four tranquilizers darts to the body, soldiers shot Juma dead.

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The official mascot for Team Brazil is a cartoon jaguar named Ginga. In a promotional video, Ginga, wears a uniform in the colors of the national flag, runs track, swims a lap, and flips through the uneven bars before taking his gold medal spot. According to a press release issued last year, the Brazil Olympic Committee chose the jaguar as their official mascot in part to promote conservation and protection of the animal, which is categorized as near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

It was another public misstep for the beleaguered Rio games, where security issues have come under scrutiny. In the last week, a large public hospital was attacked by gunmen, and separately two Australian Paralympians were robbed at gunpoint in Rio.

Broadly spoke with Gail A'Brunzo, who works for the International Fund for Animal Welfare specializing in the preservation and safety of big cats, about the killing of the Brazilian jaguar. "Wild animals shouldn't be used for entertainment, period," she said. "There are serious issues with animal welfare and human safety when there is contact, and this results in immense suffering for the animal. It's the animal that pays the price."