Salvadorans mourn the violent death of Gustavito the hippo


Gustavito is fed at the San Salvador Zoo in El Salvador as seen in a screen grab from 2014.

Martin Castillo, a street vendor in the capital's historic downtown, said: "Here we're used to seeing the dead every day". Henriquez said that injuries on the hippo's feet likely occurred when the animal attempted to defend himself.

But zookeepers did not discover the hippo's injuries until Thursday because he did not leave his pool. In 2015, the country of 6 million people recorded more than 6600 homicides, giving it the worst murder rate in the western hemisphere.

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. Most of the killings have been blamed on powerful street gangs.

The 15-year-old mammal suffered "multiple blows on different parts of the body" from "blunt and sharp objects" in Wednesday's attack, the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.

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Authorities say they've launched a formal investigation, but it's hard to know who would do this or why-especially because a hippo isn't the easiest animal to attack as the males usually weigh around 3,000 pounds and are considered one of the most risky wild animals. Gustavito survived for four days, before eventually succumbing to his injuries late on Sunday. It was after this that vets there found wounds on his neck and face.

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

Security Minister Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde refused to rule out the possibility that that employees or security personnel of the zoo were involved.

Many are calling for investigation into conditions at the zoo to determine how an attack of this nature could happen so easily, while on Twitter others have simply been posting: "Forgive us Gustavito". Gustavito was "clearly in great distress", BBC reported.