Back to Nature

Keepers of the Wild has been saving lives since its inception in 1995. Keepers is a sanctuary for exotic and indigenous animals that were being abused, neglected or abandoned.
Jonathan Kraft, founder of the nature park, began his career in show business, eventually performing as a magician in Las Vegas. As his act grew, he decided to include exotic animals.
While he raised two tiger cubs himself and gave his animals the best of care, he began to realize that show business was not the intended lifestyle for wild animals.
“At times I looked into their eyes and what I saw was confusion, sadness and stress. It made me sad,” Kraft said in his first-hand account. “Finally I realized no matter how much love I have for my animals, no matter how well I took care of them, this is simply not a life for these beautiful creatures.”
He also witnessed other trainers in the business neglecting and abusing their show animals. This spurred Kraft to begin rescuing the animals, and after some encouragement from a friend, he decided to open a sanctuary and make his passion for animal welfare his full-time job.
The current sanctuary site sits on 175 acres of desert land in Valentine, Arizona, about 65 miles from Laughlin. It is a nonprofit organization and runs with a small staff, and a host of volunteers.
Co-Director Tina Matejek joined Kraft’s mission in 1997, beginning as a volunteer. Matejek has been an integral part of Keepers, focused on enriching the animals’ lives and educating the public on conservation.

VISIT THE PARK
While Keeper’s is not a zoo, it is open for public viewing. You can purchase a walking tour and stroll through the park at your leisure, or they offer guided tours with a ride on a safari vehicle for an additional $10. Tour guides will share the animals’ stories as well as insight into their personalities and the care required for each animal.
We recommend wearing closed-toe shoes for the walking tour as you will follow a sandy path.
The park is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Monday, and the guided tours run at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. The cost for adults is $20; children ages 3-12 is $12 (age 2 and under is free); Seniors ages 65+ and military/veterans are $15.
Pets are not allowed inside the park.
After you finish your tour, check out the gift shop for a memento to remember your day, like their conservation-themed T-shirts, stuffed animals and much more. They also offer snack food and cold refreshments for sale.

THE ANIMALS
Keepers is home to a variety of animals, with different backgrounds and stories. They all have one thing in common— their future was grim until Keepers stepped in.
Keepers has a strict no breeding policy, and simply cares for the animals by providing the space, nutrients and overall habitat each animal requires to live a happy and natural life.
The largest population at Keepers is their group of around 30 tigers. Tigers are a common animal used for profit, and unfortunately are abandoned or euthanized when they outgrow their purpose.
Many of the tigers at Keepers were used for photo opportunities as cubs, but were discarded after a certain age that the law deems too dangerous for public interaction. Others were being sold illegally at auction as pets or for trophy hunts.
Like Kraft, magician Rick Thomas (who has performed many times in Laughlin) used tigers in his show. However he had a similar epiphany and brought his beloved animals to retire at Keepers as well.
A lion and two leopards round out the large cats at Keepers, which were victims of neglect.
Keepers hosts a handful of bobcats and coyotes, which are indigenous to the area, who were abandoned by their mothers as babies or found struggling to survive in residential areas and brought to Keepers by state authorities.
Bam Bam, the only resident bear, was done with her career in show business and rescued from her fate just in time to enjoy a long retirement at Keepers.
Primate village holds a diverse group, including capuchins, macaques, a lemur and a baboon. Many of the monkeys were privately owned as pets and once the novelty wore off, the owners did not want to take care of them anymore.
The workers at Keepers warn visitors not to try to house a pet that you are not ready for. Primates require a lot of attention and can also become jealous and violent, making them unsuitable as house pets.
There are a plethora of other wildlife that have been rescued by Keepers including, emus, deer, wolves, goats, and much more, which now have a place to peacefully live out the rest of their lives.

SPONSOR AN ANIMAL
You can donate to the cause by sponsoring an animal or habitat. Donations help cover the medical and nutritional costs necessary to preserve the welfare of the animals that call Keepers home.
You can pick which animal you would like to sponsor and you will receive a certificate and an 8×10 photo of your animal.
Level 1 sponsorship ($75 annually) includes hoofed animals, reptiles, and birds, Level 2 ($150 annually) covers primates, coyotes, bobcats, and wolves, and Level 3 ($250 annually) covers all of the large cats, the camel and grizzly bear.
Keepers is always looking for volunteers (age 18 and older) to help with animal care, maintenance, kitchen help, and gift shop shifts among other areas. If you are interested, visit their website at KeepersOfTheWild.org to fill out an application.