Source: Tambako / Flickr
On Monday, a jaguar was shot dead in Manaus, Brazil, shortly after being used as a prop in an Olympic torch ceremony. According to Reuters, the animal was taken down by a Brazilian army soldier after it escaped from its handlers.
The incident occurred after the Olympic torch passed through the Amazonian city. The jaguar, a female named Juma, was led back to her cage, which was housed in a truck. It was at that point that she slipped her shackle.
“Efforts were made to capture the animal by firing tranquilizers,” reads a statement from Brazil’s Amazon Military Command. “But even though the animal was hit, it still advanced towards a soldier that was stationed nearby. As a safety procedure and aiming to protect the soldier and the handlers, a pistol was used to shoot the animal. She died at the scene.”
A yellow jaguar (named “Ginga,” which translates loosely to “swagger”) is the mascot of the Brazilian Olympic team.
Juma was allegedly on loan from the CIGS zoo, which is part of the army’s warfare-training center. However, the Daily Mail reports that that the Amazon Institute of Environmental Research (IPAM) did not give permission for Juma to be used at the event. The Institute had granted permission for the use of Simba, another female, who was held elsewhere on the premises. IPAM has launched an inquiry into the death of Juma to learn why the animal was “exposed to the Olympic torch event without authorization.”
If found in breach of environmental regulations, the Brazilian army could be fined up to nearly USD$88,000.
The incident has set off a firestorm of criticism from animal rights organizations, including the Rio de Janeiro-based Animal Freedom Union. “When will people (and institutions) stop with this sick need to show power and control by confining, taming and showcasing wild animals?” the group asked on Facebook.
Indeed, the local organizing committee for Rio 2016 seems to have acknowledged the dichotomy of featuring its athletes alongside a chained beast, admitting in a statement: “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.”
The Committee added a “guarantee that there will be no more such incidents at Rio 2016.”
Unfortunately, this is but the latest disturbing incident to befall Rio 2016. The outbreak of the Zika virus in South America has impelled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a level 2 alert for anyone attending Rio’s Olympic games in August and September. Infection by the disease has been linked to microcephaly in infants and, more recently, Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), which attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
In a completely separate brand of emergency, Rio’s governor has requested financial aid to help fulfill its public services obligations to the Games. According to the state’s Official Gazette, federal funds are necessary to avoid “a total collapse in public security, health, education, transportation and environmental management.” This is no overstatement. Rio’s Guanabara Bay is brimming with sewage and trash, despite the city’s goal to clean 80 percent of it prior to August 5.
That it remains feculent is no surprise, however. Local papers report that the government cut 95 percent of its budget to clean the Bay.
But at least Rio can guarantee no more jaguars will be shot.