The management change of heart followed a vigorous campaign to save one of the zoo's star attractions.
The decision may save big cats thought to be infected with the deadly disease in other zoos and safari parks. The breakthrough came as animal rights campaigners began a 24-hour vigil yesterday outside the zoo. Officials announced that plans to administer a lethal injection to the eight-year- old African lioness had been scrapped.
They had feared that Jody had been infected by her 12-year-old partner Lumpy. His post-mortem examination last December revealed traces of FSE, Feline Spongiform Encephalopathy.
Zoo officials were worried that Jody could be a risk to healthy lions, so they confined her to her own enclosure.
They had argued that long-term isolation for lions, who prefer to be in groups, was cruel and so it would be kinder to end Jody's life. But campaigners from Advocates for Animals had claimed that the zoo was trying to find space for three Asiatic lions due to arrive at the zoo this summer.
The public protest, supported by, among others, the broadcaster Jimmy Savile and the anthropologist Desmond Morris, appears to have led to a compromise.
A zoo spokeswoman said the decision to reprieve Jody followed advice from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that there was no proven danger of Jody transmitting FSE to other lions.
"This is brilliant news," said the spokeswoman, adding: "We can now look for a home for Jody in another collection, where she can be with other lions without presenting a danger to them."Reuse content