SAN SALVADOR – The deadly attack on beloved hippopotamus Gustavito at El Salvador’s National Zoo has outraged the public and prompted lawmakers to call Monday for legislation to protect wild animals.
Gustavito died Sunday night from injuries sustained in an attack last week by unidentified individuals wielding “blunt and sharp objects,” the Culture Secretariat said.
The killing of the hippo, one of the most beloved animals in El Salvador, has outraged the public, with people expressing anger over the attack and questioning security at the zoo.
Some Salvadorans have even called for the closing of the National Zoo, where several animals, including a cobra and a lion cub, have died in the past decade.
The 16-year-old male hippo, the only animal of its kind in the Central American nation, was attacked on Feb. 21, the secretariat said.
Gustavito had “bruises and lacerations on the head and body,” the secretariat said in a statement.
The zoo was closed temporarily while veterinarians tried to save the animal, the secretariat said.
Opposition ARENA party Congresswoman Patricia Valdivieso proposed legislation Monday that would impose prison sentences of up to six years on anyone convicted of animal abuse.
El Salvador currently has no laws on the books protecting wild animals from abuse, with the existing legislation covering only companion animals.
The law protecting companion animals, such as cats and dogs, was only adopted in April 2016.
“This act of cruelty against hippopotamus Gustavito, a protected animal that did not pose a danger to anyone, is a reflection of our violence-infected society,” Valdivieso said in a statement.
The legislation would protect animals living in zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and refuges, Valdivieso said.
Gustavito arrived in El Salvador in October 2004, three months after the death of Alfredito, a hippo that lived at the National Zoo for more than 28 years.
Veterinarians are performing a necropsy Monday on Gustavito to determine the exact cause of death.