El Salvador mourns beloved hippopotamus that was beaten and stabbed to death

A surge in violence in El Salvador has claimed an unexpected victim in the shape of much-loved hippopotamus Gustavito.

The hippo was beaten and stabbed to death by attackers armed with metal bars, knives and rocks, according to the national zoo where he lived.

Salvadorans have mourned Gustavito on social media and left flowers at the gate of the zoo, which has been closed until further notice.

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Even among a population numbed by a huge human death toll due to gang violence in recent years, the hippo’s death has caused a national outrage.

San Salvador street vendor Martin Castillo said: ”Here we’re used to seeing the dead every day. They kill us like flies, but this tops it all.

“They killed an animal that only entertained us.”

Gustavito was beaten and stabbed to death at the national zoo where he lived (EPA)
Gustavito was beaten and stabbed to death at the national zoo where he lived (EPA)

Zoo director Vladan Henriquez said at a news conference that the hippo was covered with bruises and puncture wounds.

The attack occurred last week, but tragically zoo keepers did not discover the hippo’s injuries until Thursday because he did not leave his pool.

Gustavito died of his injuries late on Sunday.

The hippo was born and raised in Guatemala, but was brought to El Salvador 13 years ago.

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Justice minister Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde said an investigation had been opened.

El Salvador is one of the world’s most violent countries, recording 5,278 homicides last year – an average of 14 people killed every single day.

Most of the killings have been blamed on powerful street gangs.

Top pic: AP