The jaguar was trotted out during an Olympic torch event in Brazil, where the official team mascot is named Ginga, a smiling, yellow jaguar.
But the appearance at a zoo attached to a Manaus military compound did not end well for the jaguar: A soldier shot the animal after it escaped from its handlers, according to a Brazilian army statement.
The jaguar was first tranquilized and then approached a soldier, after which it was shot, the Amazon Military Command said.
“We guarantee that there will be no more such incidents at Rio 2016,” the local organizing Olympic committee said in a statement, according to Reuters.
“We made a mistake in permitting the Olympic torch, a symbol of peace and unity, to be exhibited alongside a chained wild animal,” the group said. “This image goes against our beliefs and our values.”
The incident comes not just at a time of heightened scrutiny over the upcoming Olympic games in Rio, but also on incidents in which animals were killed after human interaction.
Last month, a gorilla was fatally shot after a boy fell into its Cincinnati zoo enclosure, sparking widespread condemnation and outcry. In New Mexico, officials captured a bear thought to have mauled a marathon runner Saturday and killed the animal.
In Brazil, a team of veterinary specialists was dispatched after the jaguar escaped, the army said. The animal, which had been tranquilized, then headed toward military personnel.
Animal-rights groups and conservationists have reacted to the latest incident with outrage.
“When will people (and institutions) stop with this sick need to show power and control by confining, taming and showcasing wild animals?” reads a statement from Rio de Janeiro-based animal rights group Animal Freedom Union, Reuters reported.
A conservation scientist for National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative also expressed alarm.
“The day and age in which the display of such a magnificent creature ‘brought to heel’ as a symbol of power or influence is in the past, and I would hope that this incident will serve as a poignant indicator to the world at large that these practices are no longer acceptable,” Luke Dollar told National Geographic. “The symbol of the jaguar, in the absence of one on a chain, is just as powerful, and – I would argue – much more compassionate.”
The jaguar is listed as a near-threatened species and occupies an estimated 46 percent of its historic range in the Americas, according to IUCN.
“The Jaguar has been virtually eliminated from much of the drier northern parts of its range, as well as northern Brazil, the pampas scrub grasslands of Argentina and throughout Uruguay,” according to the organization.
In Brazil, the jaguar’s appearance at the event was illegal, according to Ipaam, the state agency charged with overseeing the use of wild animals, Reuters reported. Ipaam is investigating the incident.