The Loss of Henry

After a Long Life the Vilas Zoo Puts the 18-year-old African Lion to Rest

by Krista Reyes, age 14

Henry Vilas Zoo’s very own 18-year-old African lion, Henry, died this year. His health and quality of life was decreased over time due to old age and late stage renal failure.

Henry was very loved and will be greatly missed along with his mate, Vilas who died in 2012. Henry arrived at the zoo in 1997. He and Vilas were the first residents in the Big Cat Exhibit. Starting in 2003, they raised eight cubs.

The cubs were all transferred to different zoos as part of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Lion Species Survival Plan. They can be found at the Milwaukee, Racine, Topeka, Blank and the Tautphaus Park zoos.

Before Henry died, he was paired with a different lioness, Shakura. She is the zoo’s youngest female. Even though they weren’t together for a long time, the zoo staff was hopeful that they would successfully breed.

According to Henry Vilas Zoo director, Ronda Schwetz, Henry had a good and long life. He was a favorite among both staff and visitors.

The life expectancy for African lions in zoos is 16.8 years. Henry’s life was long and full. Sadly, he was humanely euthanized because of his deteriorating health. Henry will never be forgotten.

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