El Salvador's much-loved hippo Gustavito killed at zoo

He was a star attraction at the zoo having been brought over from Guatemala 13 years ago.

Street vendor Martin Castillo said: "Here we're used to seeing the dead every day". Authorities said it was one of the most inhumane and cowardly acts they'd ever seen. In 2015, the country of 6 million people recorded more than 6600 homicides, giving it the worst murder rate in the western hemisphere. To put all that in perspective, it was a momentous occasion when El Salvador went 24 hours without a single killing in mid-January. Many of those gang members returned to the country after El Salvador's civil war ended in 1992.

A zoo in El Salvador is reeling after the devastating murder of one of it's most famous animals, a hippo named Gustavito. "They killed an animal that only entertained us".

The 15-year-old hippo 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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Despite veterinarians' best efforts to keep him alive, Gustavito died on Sunday as a result of his injuries.

Rocks and pieces of metal were found in the area, they added.

Zoo officials noticed on Thursday that Gustavito was acting strangely and would not come out of the water in his enclosure or eat. It was after this that vets there found wounds on his neck and face.

"There were injuries inside his mouth", HenrĂ­quez said.

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In the wake of the attack, the zoo closed its doors and doubled security.

Some people left flowers at the zoo's gate, the Associated Press reported. Others have simply posted: "Forgive us Gustavito".

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

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