An investigation is being launched into the murder of the hippopotamus Gustavito, who was considered a national treasure in El Salvador.
The citizens of El Salvador are no strangers to tragic violence, but they were shocked to hear of the deadly attack that was carried out against Gustavito, the hippopotamus who was among the most beloved creatures at the national zoo in San Salvador.
"Here we're used to seeing the dead every day," Martin Castillo, a street vendor in the capital's historic downtown, told the Associated Press on Monday. "They kill us like flies, but this tops it all. They killed an animal that only entertained us."
The unknown assailants reportedly broke into the zoo and into Gustavito's enclosure last Tuesday night. The zoo staff did not discover the hippo's horrific wounds until Thursday, as he had not left his pool since being attacked. Gustavito died of his injuries on Sunday night.
Zoo director Vladan Henriquez said that Gustavito's body was covered in bruises and stabs. The attackers are suspected to have used sharp weapons and blunt tools, such as metal bars, knives, and rocks.
The zoo has been temporarily closed in the wake of Gustavito's murder. Mourners have left flowers outside of the zoo's gate in honor of the 15-year-old hippo.
Justice Minister Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde has said that an investigation into the attack is underway.
Last year, going off data from the World Bank, El Salvador was deemed "the world's new murder capital," with the highest homicide rate of any country in almost 20 years. Gangs are responsible for the majority of the violence in the poverty-stricken nation.