Famous Hippo Attacked With Ice Pick in His Enclosure

Gustavito was a hippo living in a zoo in El Salvador, where he’d lived for 13 years after being born and raised in Guatemala. Gustavito died on Sunday following a vicious attack in his enclosure sometime on Tuesday night.


The Washington Post reports that the hippo’s death has enraged citizens, who are living in a country that recorded 5,278 homicides in 2016 and has an average of 14 deaths every day. Even with one of the worst murder rates in the western hemisphere, many people are heartbroken that an animal would somehow attract violence. A street vendor named Martin Castillo described his disgust to reporters.

“Here we’re used to seeing the dead every day,” said Castillo, “They kill us like flies, but this tops it all. They killed an animal that only entertained us.”

There are no suspects or known motives to the attack, according to zoo director Vladan Henriquez. In fact, the zookeepers didn’t even know the attack had taken place for some time:

Zookeepers said in a news conference they noticed last Tuesday the hippo, named Gustavito, behaving strangely. He had stopped eating, the zookeepers said, and was spending most of his time hiding under the water in his enclosure. They said they didn’t get a chance to inspect him up close until Thursday because he refused to leave his pool. When the zookeepers did get a close look at him, they found he was suffering from “bruises, lacerations on the head and body, cramps and abdominal pain,” the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.

Officials say the injuries appeared to come from “blunt and sharp objects.” Rocks and pieces of metal were found nearby, and there were wounds on Gustavito’s feet and face that looked like they came from an ice pick. Authorities say they’ve launched a formal investigation, but it’s hard to know who would do this or why—especially because a hippo isn’t the easiest animal to attack as the males usually weigh around 3,000 pounds and are considered one of the most dangerous wild animals. Gustavito, of course, wasn’t wild.

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin



It’s terrible to think that Gustavito was so traumatized that he hid himself away for days. RIP.