TOPEKA (KSNT) — Animals at the Topeka Zoo have managed to remain COVID-free since the start of the pandemic two years ago, but this doesn’t mean that other zoos across the country have had the same luck.

For this reason, universities like K-State have looked deeper into research for vaccines made specifically for zoo animals. A new study at K-State focuses on protecting 100 different species of mammals that are especially susceptible to the virus. The professor spearheading the research is Dr. Jürgen A. Richt.

In a recent press release about the study, he explained exactly what kind of animals in zoos they are trying to get vaccinated.

“We know that domestic and large cats and many zoo animals are highly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, probably acquiring the virus from their handlers,” Richt said.

As of now, the Topeka Zoo has not made the jump to vaccinate its animals. Instead, they are doing something most people would never think would happen.

“We have been working with our animals to try and train them to let us swab, whether it be the inside of the cheek or the nose,” said Animal Care Supervisor Shanna Simpson. “It makes it very stress-free, and that’s kind of neat that we are preemptively training our animals to test them.”

Simpson explained that prior to the pandemic they were extremely cautious around their animals, as many of these animals can contract the same viruses and infections that humans can.

“Primates can get any virus or bacteria that we can get,” said Simpson. “They can get flu, they can get strep and they can get anything along those lines that we can get, so we have always taken precautions, especially with our primates.”

Even though the primates are of concern, the Topeka Zoo said big cats are extremely susceptible when it comes to the coronavirus. So to address this, they have trained many different animals in the zoo to cooperate when being tested.

“The orangutans, the tigers, the lions, the cougar…those are the animals that are more apt to come over,” Simpson said.

Although the Topeka Zoo has not made the decision to vaccinate its animals yet, Simpson said it is still a possibility for them in the future.