A highly adored hippopotamus named Gustavito died at El Salvador’s National Zoo Sunday from injuries sustained in a violent attack last week.
According to the Associated Press, the death of the animal has rocked a nation plagued by violence. In 2015, the country had the worst murder rate in the Western Hemisphere, with most of the killings being blamed on powerful street gangs.
“Here we’re used to seeing the dead every day,” street vendor Martin Castillo told the outlet. “They kill us like flies, but this tops it all. They killed an animal that only entertained us.”
Vladan Henriquez, the zoo’s director, announced at a news conference that the 15-year-old hippo had apparently been attacked with metal bars, knives and rocks sometime last Tuesday night, leaving him covered in bruises and lacerations.
“There were injuries inside his mouth,” Henriquez said, according to CNN. He said that those were probably inflicted “when the animal tried to defend himself.”
However, zookeepers did not discover Gustavito’s injuries until Thursday, as the animal remained in his pool. CNN reports the hippo had also stopped eating.
Despite around-the-clock care, Gustavito died Sunday night.
The zoo is investigating who is behind the attack.
According to BBC, Security Minister Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde said that although there was no evidence that zoo employees were at fault, he “ruled nothing out.”
AP reports that Gustavito was born in Guatemala but brought to El Salvador 13 years ago. He has since become one of the zoo’s most beloved animals.
The zoo has been closed until further notice, AP reports, but mourners are leaving flowers at the gate in memory of Gustavito.