MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A popular lion at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Dane County has died after officials determined she had cancer.

The African lion named Vilas arrived at the zoo as a cub in 1997. She and her mate, Henry, were the first residents of the zoo's newly renovated Big Cat Exhibit and raised eight cubs.

Zoo official Karen Berendes says workers knew something was wrong after she stopped eating a few days ago.

Tests showed she had developed an aggressive mammary carcinoma that had spread to her lymphatic system. She says zoo officials then decided to have her euthanized Wednesday.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports the zoo is working with a national zoo program to find a new female lion.