San Salvador - A fatally savage attack by unidentified assailants on a hippopotamus in El Salvador's main zoo has stunned the country, with the government on Monday highlighting "national revulsion" at the crime.
Named Gustavito and aged 15, the large animal was beaten and stabbed in the stomach and snout by unidentified individuals who entered its compound last Wednesday night, probably while it was sleeping, according to a statement by the culture ministry.
The serious wounds led to problems eating, and the male hippo eventually died late Sunday, after four days of suffering.
"I deeply and profoundly regret this situation," the culture minister, Silvia Regalado, said.
She added that she had witnessed the "hard work" by veterinarians and workers at the National Zoological Park who had tried in vain to save the hippo's life.
The head of El Salvador's Zoological Foundation, Mauricio Velasquez, said "we find it difficult to believe that someone is capable of doing that to a defenseless animal." Officials said security at the zoo, located south of the capital, would be reinforced with police and soldiers.
The culture ministry said the park had stopped buying exotic species eight years ago, and this crime had prompted it to also stop acquiring any big animals.
"The park will accelerate its transformation into a center for the protection and rescue of our native fauna," the statement said.