MADISON, Wis. -

Henry Vilas Zoo announced Wednesday that the nearly 18-year-old African lion, Henry, has died.

Officials said Henry’s health and quality of life had been progressively getting worse with late-stage kidney failure.

“Henry was beloved by zoo staff and visitors, and he will be greatly missed,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said in a release. “He and his previous mate, Vilas, contributed greatly to the survival of their species, and towards educating the public on the importance of preserving our natural world.”

Henry came to Henry Vilas Zoo in 1997, according to the release. Henry and Vilas, who passed in 2012, were the first residents of the zoo’s Big Cat Exhibit.

The pair of lions raised eight cubs, which have been transferred to other zoos, officials said. Their cubs can be visited at the Milwaukee Zoo, the Racine Zoo, the NEW Zoo in Green Bay, the Topeka Zoo, Blank Park Zoo and Tautphaus Park Zoo.

According to the release, the mean life expectancy for African lions in zoos is 16.8 years.

“Although Henry lived a long, full life at Henry Vilas Zoo, it recently became apparent to zoo staff that his quality of life was diminishing,” officials said in the release. “Henry was humanely euthanized on Wednesday.”

The zoo is working with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Lion Species Survival Program to manage the future of the lions housed in the zoo.