The Erie Zoo announced their senior lioness, Nala, passed away Monday.

At the time of her passing, she was one of the oldest African lionesses in the world, according to the zoo. Nala the lioness has been a part of the Erie Zoo for her entire life, and during that time she has served as an icon.

The 24-year-old lioness, known as the “Queen of the Erie Zoo” was humanly euthanized due to irreversible age-related issues common in cat species. She experienced kidney failure, arthritis and most recently muscle loss issues.

The average lifespan of an African lion in captivity is 10 to 18 years, so Nala far outlived expectations thanks to the caretakers of the zoo.

“Nala had actually surpassed her mate and all three of her children with her life, so that was really exciting. She served as an incredible ambassador to her species over two decades and lived that entire time here at the zoo. She has been an important part of our family here and our community,” Emily Smicker, marketing & event coordinator at the Erie Zoo.

Nala has been a constant presence at the zoo throughout her lifetime, but those impacted have grown with her over the years. The most recent animal to pass away at the zoo was joe the orangutan, who died at the age of 36 early in 2022.

A zoo guest noted that she feels happy knowing that the zoo staff does a great job caring for the animals.

One guest that had been coming to the zoo for years with their parents now has kids themselves and has seen Nala since she was little.

“There was an orangutan that had passed away and he was very old too. So that’s humbling just knowing that they take care of their animals so well here. It’s sad at the same time because I used to come to the zoo when I was little, which means that she was probably a lioness that I had seen when I was little,” Leah Earls, Erie Zoo guest.

Nala has been at the Erie Zoo since October of 1998, and the Erie Zoo’s care team hopes that they’ve given her a comfortable and enriching life.