Late Sunday night, El Salvador’s beloved hippo, Gustavito, died from injuries he sustained earlier in the week at the San Salvador Zoo in what many suspect was a brutal beating committed by members of one of the country’s violent gangs, or maras. 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.
CNN reported that zookeepers in El Savador did not know what was ailing the hippo until Thursday. They just knew that the hippopotamus wanted to be off by himself, underwater, in his pool, and he was “refusing to eat,” according to BBC News.
After the hippopotamus was examined by one of the zoo’s veterinarians, it was found that the hippo was suffering from lacerations on his head and body, bruises, cramps, and abdominal pain. Pieces of rock and metal were discovered within the hippo’s cage.
Vladan Henriquez, the zoo’s director said at a news conference that Gus’ body was covered in bruises and puncture wounds after being attacked with what appeared to be rocks, knives, and metal bars. International Business Times reported that Henriquez said wounds on the hippo’s cheeks were likely caused by an ice pick. Henriquez said that injuries on the hippo’s feet likely occurred when the animal attempted to defend himself.
Veterinarians cared for the hippo around the clock after they discovered he had been attacked. There will be a necropsy performed in order to pinpoint his exact cause of death.
Following the attack, the national zoo was closed. It is uncertain how long the zoo will remain closed. Salvadorans who had grown to love the famous hippo took to social media to express their sadness. Some people left flowers for Gustavito at the zoo’s gate.
Justice Minister Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde said an investigation is ongoing into the hippo’s death. El Salvador, a country known for its high rate of crime and murder, is in mourning after a much-beloved hippo, Gustavito, was killed from injuries it sustained after being beaten by one or more assailants and died on Sunday.
No motive has been uncovered and no arrests have been made at this time. Gustavito was 15 years old at the time he was beaten to death by one or more assailants. The hippo was born and raised in Guatemala. He was moved to El Salvador 13 years ago.
By John Samuels