The Brazilian team’s official mascot for the 2016 Summer Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro this August is a smiling cartoon jaguar named Ginga. But a real, live jaguar named Juma was probably not very happy after an Olympic torch relay ceremony held June 20 in Manaus, Brazil.
Juma lived in the Brazilian Amazon — in a zoo that’s attached to a military jungle training camp. The 17-year-old jaguar spent her life there, ever since she was taken in as a cub after her mother died.
As the Olympic torch was carried through the camp, Juma — who’d been drugged beforehand – was removed from her enclosure, chained and put on display. After she was returned to her enclosure, she managed to escape. Still inside the zoo, she was shot with four tranquilizer darts. When she approached a soldier, Juma was shot dead.
The army’s press office said Juma, a “docile animal used to living among people at the center,” was killed to protect the soldiers.
Why was a member of a threatened species – jaguars are already extinct in Uruguay and El Salvador – subjected to such a stressful event?
Rescued jaguars are “sometimes kept as mascots by jungle battalions and shown at military parades,” BBC Brazil reports. Juma was a mascot for the Manaus infantry battalion.
“We made a mistake in permitting the Olympic torch, a symbol of peace and unity, to be exhibited alongside a chained wild animal,” it said in a statement. “This image goes against our beliefs and our values. We guarantee that there will be no more such incidents at Rio 2016.”
Putting Juma on display was not authorized, according to the Amazonas State Institute for Environmental Protection (Ipaam), which oversees the use of wild animals in Brazil.
“No request was made to authorize the participation of the jaguar ‘Juma’ in the event of the Olympic torch,” Ipaam stated. The organization is investigating the incident.
The killing of Juma has sparked outrage around the world. The Rio 2016 Facebook page is filled with angry comments from people appalled by her death and vowing not to watch the Olympics.
Carlos Durigan, director of WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) Brazil, is among the many wildlife experts who don’t think Juma belonged at the torch ceremony.
“I don’t think the jaguar is a good mascot, especially like this – chained up, like a trophy on display,” Durigan told the Guardian.
“Even in her reportedly drugged state, this jaguar knew to bolt from her life of misery the second she could, and she paid for her yearning for freedom with her life,” said Brittany Peet, director of the PETA Foundation’s captive animal law enforcement. “When will we learn?”
In its statement about the killing of Juma, the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee said, “Even when interaction with wild animals is part of the local culture, the exhibition of these species will not be permitted on the torch relay.”
On the torch relay? Under no circumstances should a wild animal be subjected to such stress during any other event, merely for people’s entertainment – even when it’s allegedly “part of local culture.”
Demand justice for Juma by signing and sharing this petition urging Ipaam to stop allowing wild animals to be used at events.