Music Matters
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Jaguar Used In Olympic Torch Ceremony Escapes, Is Shot Dead

Brazilian physiotherapist Igor Simoes Andrade poses for a picture next to jaguar Juma as he takes part in the Olympic torch relay in Manaus, Brazil, on Monday.
Marcio Melo
Brazilian physiotherapist Igor Simoes Andrade poses for a picture next to jaguar Juma as he takes part in the Olympic torch relay in Manaus, Brazil, on Monday.

The Brazilian army says it shot dead an escaped jaguar shortly after the animal was displayed at a ceremony celebrating the Olympic torch in the Amazonian city of Manaus.

The jaguar named Juma had escaped his leash at a zoo affiliated with a local military training center, after appearing earlier at the Olympic event, the military said in a statement.

This is just the latest scandal connected to the games and adds to a long list of woes facing Brazil. Last week, Rio de Janeiro's governor declared a "state of calamity," saying that the state hosting the Olympics is bankrupt. As we have reported, Brazil is confronting the Zika virus, a historic economic recession and myriad corruption scandals. Its president is facing impeachment proceedings.

A team of veterinarians worked to try to corral the jaguar and used tranquilizers, the military said. But despite being sedated, Juma moved toward a soldier. According to the military, the animal was then killed with a single pistol shot in order to protect the team.

The Olympic torch is making its way through Brazil before the opening ceremony on Aug. 5. Video posted by the Brazilian channel Globo Esporte shows the jaguar chained down between two soldiers during Monday's ceremony.

"We were wrong to allow the Olympic torch, a symbol of peace and unity among peoples, to be displayed next to a chained wild animal," the local organizing committee Rio 2016 posted on Twitter. "This scene is contrary to our beliefs and values."

The organizing committee added that they were "saddened" by the outcome. "We guarantee that we will not see more situations like this in the Rio 2016 Games," it said.

The killing has drawn outrage from animal rights groups and the general public.

"Wild animals held captive and forced to do things that are frightening, sometimes painful, and always unnatural are ticking time bombs — captivity puts animal and human lives at risk," PETA said in a statement.

University of Brasilia animal behavior scientist Joao Paulo Castro told the BBC that Juma's participation in the ceremony could have stressed the animal, contributing to the escape attempt.

"It's neither healthy nor advisable to subject an animal to such a situation, with lots of noise and people," he told the network. "Often, jaguars already are stressed by being kept in captivity; that's only compounded when they're exposed to hubbub."

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says the jaguar "is a near-threatened species that is already extinct in Uruguay and El Salvador," Reuters reported.

The jaguar's inclusion in the ceremony was also illegal because local authorities did not seek permission, according to Ipaam, "the Amazonas state government authority that oversees the use of wild animals," the wire service reported.

"No request was made to authorize the participation of the jaguar 'Juma' in the event of the Olympic torch," Ipaam said. Ipaam is investigating the incident, and according to the military, the training center has opened administrative proceedings "to ascertain the facts."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.