top of page

Meet Our Staff

JK Website Photo.jpg

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 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 a number of 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. 

LK 2021 Headshot .heic

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's education committee and greatly enjoys combining her passion for animals and the natural world with her deep appreciation for education.

Matthew Sumner.jpg

Matthew Sumner

Park Manager, Animal Curator

Prior to his time with Keepers, Matthew spent six years serving in the social work and healthcare fields, including work as a caregiver.


In early 2017, he started out part-time on weekends as an Animal Caretaker for Keepers of the Wild. Moved by seeing the needs of the elderly animals and witnessing the long-term health complications related to declawing procedures in big cats, it didn’t take long before the welfare of the animals became a passion for Matthew and he decided to dedicate his time and career to them by joining Keepers full-time.

Matthew continued to excel in his care and compassion for the animals and became an Animal Care Supervisor in late 2017. He became certified in immobilization, began working closely with veterinarians, and was an integral teammate in multiple animal rescues.

Having displayed both commitment and skills, Matthew was promoted to Park Manager in November of 2019.

Maira Photo.jpeg

Maira Sanchez

Animal Care Supervisor

Maira is from Southern California where she received an associate's degree in the arts with an emphasis in social and behavioral science.


She has volunteered at the San Diego Zoo/Wild Animal Park assisting with animal enrichment activities  and spent several years working at the local hospital before joining Keepers of the Wild in June of 2019. A fast learner with a great love for animals, Maira became a valuable team member in Animal Care and was promoted to Animal Care Supervisor within her first year.

April Ibarra.jpg

April Ibarra

Animal Care Supervisor

April began working with Keepers of the Wild as a volunteer Animal Caretaker in February 2017 and joined the staff as a full-time employee by the end of March.

After about a year of hard work and dedication to learning the ins and outs of animal care, April began working with the big cats and became Animal Care Supervisor. Developing a deeper love and understanding for the animals in her care, April became inspired to pursue her bachelor’s degree in environmental science, with a focus on wildlife conservation.

April’s favorite part of working for Keepers is the wide variety of both animals and people she has the opportunity to work with- there’s never a dull moment!

Tiffany Website Photo.jpg

Tiffany Hollon

Gift Shop & Office Manager

Tiffany was born and raised in Arizona and discovered a few years ago that Keepers of the Wild was located just down the road from her home.  


The discovery prompted her to apply so she could become a member of the Keepers team, and in 2019 was hired as the Gift Shop Manager. After flourishing in her managerial role, she was promoted and is now both Gift Shop Manager and the primary Office Assistant. 


Tiffany enjoys spending early mornings and lunch breaks visiting and building bonds with the different animals we care for.

With a passion for the fair and ethical treatment of animals, Tiffany's ultimate goal is to earn her degree in zoology and use her knowledge to continue to advocate for animal welfare.


"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!”

bottom of page