Animal welfare groups have reacted angrily to the shooting of a jaguar that "illegally" featured at an Olympic torch ceremony in Brazil before being shot dead after it escaped from its handlers.
The female jaguar, named Juma, was killed by a soldier on Monday shortly after being pictured chained up between army personnel in the Amazon city of Manaus.
The army said Juma was killed at a zoo attached to a military training centre after a soldier fired a single shot at it after the jaguar approached him.
The jaguar had already been shot with four tranquiliser darts.
The incident is now being investigated by Ipaam, the Amazonas state government environmental authority that oversees the use of wild animals, who say it was illegal to use the animal in the ceremony.
“No request was made to authorise the participation of the jaguar “Juma” in the event of the Olympic torch,” Ipaam said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The Rio 2016 local organising committee has released an apology over the shooting which prompted similar outrage as the shooting of a gorilla at a Cincinnati zoo in May, and the killing of several alligators at Walt Disney World In Orlando last week, during the search for a reptile that killed a child.
“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 said in a statement.
It added: “We guarantee that there will be no more such incidents at Rio 2016.”
A smiling yellow jaguar known as Ginga is the mascot of the Brazilian Olympic team. The animal, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is a nearly threatened species that has already been wiped out in Uruguay and El Salvador.
Animal Freedom Union, a Rio de Janeiro-based animal rights group, wrote on Facebook of the shooting: “When will people (and institutions) stop with this sick need to show power and control by confining, taming and showcasing wild animals?”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said in a statement: "When will we learn? Wild animals held captive and forced to do things that are frightening, sometimes painful, and always unnatural are ticking time bombs — our actions put them and humans at risk."
Animal Justice, a Canadian animal law organisation, tweeted: "This needs to stop."
Juma had been raised in the zoo since she was a cub along with half-a-dozen siblings.
The Olympic torch is relayed through Brazil leading up to the August opening ceremony.
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