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Meet Our Staff


Jonathan Kraft

Founder, President, Executive Director

Jonathan Kraft, an animal behaviorist, established Keepers of the Wild as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit animal sanctuary in 1995 (click here to read the full story). The nature park and wildlife sanctuary is currently located on 175 acres in Valentine, Arizona on historic Route 66.


Jonathan has worked with local, state, national, and international law enforcement and animal welfare agencies to assist with rescues, rehabilitation, and providing a life-long home to wild and exotic animals.


Jonathan’s high standards of animal care have earned numerous commendations and awards from organizations including the Nevada Wildlife Federation, the S.P.C.A, the Humane Society, and Arizona’s Attorney’s and Sheriff’s Associations.


Jonathan has starred in movies and has been featured in several local, national, and international educational film projects, documentaries, news broadcasts, articles, and magazines. Highly regarded for his expertise with animals, Jonathan has served as an expert witness in court proceedings against animal abusers, worked as an independent consultant to other sanctuaries, and is a highly sought-after presenter for special speaking engagements. 


Lara Kraft

Vice President, Chairwoman, Media Director

Lara is a life-long nature enthusiast and animal advocate whose love of wildlife inspired her to pursue photography from an early age.


Before joining Keepers of the Wild in 2017, Lara enjoyed a lengthy career in surgical coordination and technology followed by three years of educational program development and grant management for rural and underperforming schools in Washington and Arizona State.


Lara's role at Keepers has evolved over the years, beginning in the gift shop as a part-time employee. On her lunch breaks she began walking the park, taking photos, and most of all, falling in love with the animals. A mountain lion named Cindy stole Lara's heart and, inspired by the mission of Keepers, Lara felt compelled to become more involved and soon became a full-time Keeper in animal care, as well as the official park photographer.


After two years of learning the ins and the outs of Keepers of the Wild, Lara was promoted to Media Director and Vice President in 2019 and was later elected as Board Chairwoman in 2020. In 2021, she became an active member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance. Lara greatly enjoys combining her passion for animals and the natural world with her deep appreciation for education.


"Sparky" Knowlton

Gift Shop Host

Sparky grew up in Idaho and was always in love with the outdoors and its inhabitants.


Following the love of his life (wife Carrie, together over 30 years) to Arizona, he adjusted to his new habitat.


As he learned about Keepers of the Wild, he was inspired to join the team that loves, cares for, and protects nature's precious animals. In November of 2020, he acted on his inspiration and became the full-time Gift Shop Host, much to KOTW's staff and guests' delight; his nickname makes sense the moment you meet him!

Sparky would like to remind you that every purchase in the gift shop helps support the residents of our sanctuary and, as Sparky likes to say, “The animals thank you!”

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