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Gustavito was born in neighboring Guatemala, but arrived in El Salvador 13 years ago.

"Here we're used to seeing the dead every day", Martin Castillo, a street vendor in the capital San Salvador, said.

Culture secretary Silvia Elena Regalado said in a statement released on Monday that she "deeply regretted" the situation and characterised the beating of the animal as "brutal".

According to 2016 data from the World Bank, El Salvador has the highest homicide rate for any country in almost 20 years, with numerous murders being carried out by gangs.

Despite pervasive gang activity that has numbed many Salvadorans to violence, Gustavito's death shocked a nation.

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A much loved hippopotamus called Gustavito has died after being savagely beaten in El Salvador's national zoo, sending shockwaves around the country. "They killed an animal that only entertained us".

Despite the fact he'd stopped coming to eat his food, zookeepers only noticed something was wrong with Gustavito on Thursday because he spent all of Wednesday underwater - an unusual habit for him. Gustavito survived for four days, before eventually succumbing to his injuries late on Sunday. Mr. Henriquez identified these objects as metal bars, knives, and rocks, some evidence of which was found in the hippo's enclosure. Security Minister Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde said that while there was no evidence that zoo employees or security were involved, he has "ruled nothing out".

Others likened Gustavito's death to that of Harambe, the gorilla who was famously shot and killed in Cincinnati zoo previous year, prompting global outrage and a deluge of memes and over-the-top celebrity tributes. The zoo's veterinarians found lacerations on the hippo's neck and face.

Some people left flowers at the zoo's gate, the Associated Press reported.

Many are calling for investigation into conditions at the zoo to determine how an attack of this nature could happen so easily, while on Twitter others have simply been posting: "Forgive us Gustavito".