El Salvador Violence: Beloved Hippo 'Gustavito' Killed at Zoo

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.

Others likened Gustavito's death to that of Harambe, the gorilla who was famously shot and killed in Cincinnati zoo previous year, prompting global outrage and a deluge of memes and over-the-top celebrity tributes.

Veterinarians cared for the hippo around the clock after they discovered he had been attacked.

Gustavito's killing has prompted a profound reaction on social media in El Salvador, one of the world's most violent countries.

Some people left flowers for Gustavito at the zoo's gate.

Officials have described it as a cowardly and inhumane attack on one of the most iconic animals at the city's zoo.

Despite veterinarians' best efforts to keep him alive, Gustavito died on Sunday as a result of his injuries.

"They kill us like flies, but this tops it all".

Zoo director Vladen Henríquez told CNN that Gustavito also had wounds on his cheek, which were presumably caused by an ice pick, as well as injuries on his feet that may have occurred when "the animal tried to defend himself".

A German zoo is facing similar scrutiny from animal advocates after a Humboldt penguin was stolen from the Luisenpark in Mannheim, Germany, in early February.

Justice Minister Ramirez Landaverde said an investigation has been opened.

Gustavito was a star attraction at the zoo ever since he arrived from Guatemala more than 12 years ago.

Even in El Salvador, a country that has experienced widespread gang violence and averaged 14 murders per day last year and 10 per day so far this year, the unsuspected and senseless beating death of "Gus" has provoked outrage.

Most were blamed on powerful street gangs.

  • Leroy Wright