A much-loved hippopotamus in El Salvador called Gustavito has died after a shocking attack at the country's National Zoo.
Police are trying to establish who entered the animal's enclosure at night and brutally assaulted him. Officials have described it as a cowardly and inhumane attack on one of the most iconic animals at the city's zoo.
Unknown assailants entered the National Zoo at night and subjected the hippo to a sustained beating using metal bars, knives and rocks. The following morning, zookeepers noticed Gustavito acting strangely, refusing to eat and unwilling to come out of the pool in his enclosure.
The zoo's veterinarians then found lacerations on the hippo's neck and face, and the animal clearly in great distress. 15-year-old Gustavito died from his injuries several days later, despite valiant attempts to save him.
The country has one of the highest murder rates in the world. About 10 people a day have been murdered so far this year, with most of the violence caused by criminal gangs, known locally as maras.
BBC is reporting that in a country where murder has long lost the capacity to shock, the extreme animal cruelty that claimed Gustavito's life has angered and upset all of El Salvador. Many expressed dismay on social media-- A locally trending topic on Twitter being "Forgive us Gustavito".
“Here we’re used to seeing the dead every day,” said Martin Castillo, a
street vendor in the capital’s historic downtown. “They
kill us like flies, but this tops it all. They killed an animal that
only entertained us.”