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Jaguar shot dead after Olympic ceremony in Brazil

June 22, 2016 10:46 IST

The female jaguar -- a nearly threatened species -- escaped from its handlers following the event and was killed, causing uproar among animal rights groups.

IMAGE: Brazilian physiotherapist Igor Simoes Andrade poses next to jaguar Juma as he takes part in the Olympic torch relay in Manaus, Brazil. Photograph: Marcio Melo/Reuters

A jaguar trotted out for the Olympic torch’s passage through Brazil’s Amazon was killed shortly afterward when it escaped its handlers and threatened a vet, the Brazilian military said on Tuesday.

During the event the female jaguar -- called Juma -- was just yards away from the lighting of the Olympic torch, where she was held by a chain around her neck.

Following the event she was taken to her zoo cage on a truck but managed to escape.

A team of vets tried to recapture Juma by firing tranquilizers but they failed to take immediate effect and she reportedly came close to attacking a soldier.

The Amazon Military Command -- whose symbol is a jaguar -- said the animal was shot as a ‘safety procedure’ to ‘protect the soldier’.

The incident happened on Tuesday after the Olympic torch passed through the jungle city, where England played Italy in the 2014 World Cup. 

A statement issued by Brazil’s Amazon Military Command said: “Efforts were made to capture the animal by firing tranquilizers. 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.”

The shooting sparked backlash from animal rights activists who questioned why the animal was involved in the Olympic event at all.

The Rio 2016 organising committee expressed regrets.

“We made a mistake when we allowed the Olympic torch, a symbol of peace and union of different people, to be exhibited next to a chained wild animal,” the committee said in a statement.

“This scene contradicts our beliefs and values. We are very saddened by what happened after the torch relay and guarantee we will not witness any other situation like this one during the Rio 2016 Games.”

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