Jaguar Killed Moments After Being Used In Olympic Torch Ceremony

He was supposed to be a symbol of natural beauty, but he died in the most unnatural way.

An endangered jaguar named Juma, who had been used as a prop during an Olympic Torch ceremony in Brazil, was shot and killed just minutes after the cameras stopped snapping.

The big cat had been held in captivity at a zoo in the city of Manaus operated by the Amazon Military Command (CMA). There, he was touted as a living mascot for the local forces, and was frequently forced to participate in various parades and official events - but Monday's Olympic torch relay ceremony would prove to be his last.

Juma was collared and chained during the event as athletes posed for photos alongside him and CMA commandos stood guard. The ceremony concluded without incident, but moments later, as he was led away back to his cage on the secured grounds of the zoo, Juma managed to break free in an attempt to escape.

Warning: Graphic image below.

The zoo area was empty, so the public wasn't in danger, officials said in a press release. After CMA veterinarians moved in to dart the jaguar with tranquilizer, however, Juma reportedly "moved" in their direction.

That's when they opened fire.

The incident has sparked an outpouring of criticism online, not only because of the way Juma died, but also for how he was made to live. Diogo Lagroteria, a veterinarian from Brazil's environmental agency, told Globo News that Juma was acting in his nature - and that his handlers are to blame. Juma was just one of several jaguars at the CMA's zoo.

"This type of activity [using wild animals in parades, ceremonies, etc.] is inadequate," Lagroteria said. "The whole world discusses ethics and animal welfare and, in some places, has already banned the participation of these wild animals in circuses. This activity on the part of the military is unnecessary and pure vanity."

To make matters worse, jaguars are a protected species in Brazil, having experienced declines of 30 percent in recent decades. Environmental officials are reviewing Juma's death, and charges could be filed against the CMA.

This isn't the first time, of course, that animals held in captivity have been killed by their keepers simply for following their instincts, and it likely won't be the last.

Click here to sign a petition (in Portuguese) calling for an end to the use of wild animals in exhibitions and shows in Brazil.