A jaguar that was meant to symbolize natural beauty during the Brazilian Olympic Torch ceremony was killed in a shockingly unnatural way just moments after she completed her job as a photo "prop".
Juma the jaguar was used as a living mascot by the Amazon Military Command (CMA) and she was regularly brought out to be "showed off" in events and exhibitions, but the Olympic torch relay ceremony proved to be her last.
Juma was chained at the event as athletes posed next to her for pictures with CMA personnel standing guard. The ceremony went smoothly, but later as Juma was being led back to her cage, she broke free and attempted to escape.
According to an official press release, the zoo was empty when the big cat escaped and the public was not in danger of being harmed. CMA vets quickly moved to tranquilize the jaguar, but even after being shot with a tranquilizer dart, Juma allegedly managed to lunge at a CMA guard. She was shot down immediately.
The incident has caused outrage as the world criticized not only Juma's sudden and unnecessary death, but also the demeaning way she was made to live. The Rio 2016 organizing committee has publicly apologized for allowing the Olympic torch to be exhibited next to a chained animal.
Juma is not the first endangered zoo animal to be killed by her keepers for simply following her instincts. Her death is especially troubling when you consider how rapidly jaguar populations are declining due to poaching and habitat loss. The species is categorized as "near threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List—meaning jaguars are threatened with extinction in the near future.
It is unclear whether any charges will be filed against the CMA, but Brazilian environmental officials are said to be reviewing Juma's death. Perhaps this tragedy will be the catalyst that ends the use of wild animals as "props" in exhibitions and parades in Brazil.