Ariz. big cat facility opens to public

By JIM SECKLER/The Daily News

Wednesday, May 30, 2007 4:14 AM PDT

KINGMAN – After several years in transition, an animal sanctuary for wild animals located northwest of Kingman will open Thursday to the public.

The Keepers of the Wild, once located off Highway 93 about 20 miles south of Hoover Dam, moved to a larger 175-acre site just north of the historic Valentine school off state Route 66 about 25 miles northeast of Kingman, Keepers of the Wild spokeswoman Karlie Lewis said.

Keepers of the Wild was founded by Jonathan Kraft who opened the sanctuary for neglected and abused exotic animals in Mohave County eight years ago. The new park is home to more than 150 animals including tigers, lions, leopards, reptiles, wolves, primates and exotic birds.

The sanctuary has rescued neglected animals from abusive trainers or from uneducated pet owners. The facility recently rescued 10 monkeys found after a police raid on a home in Phoenix. The park also includes a gift shop, bird aviary and a wolf habitat, Lewis said.

In three to four months, the installation of added fencing will allow visitors to walk through the sanctuary but for now visitors must go on guided tours through the park. The animals live in a natural spacious habitat with waterfalls, rock formations, vegetation and natural springs, Lewis said.

Residents of Mohave County can enjoy a pre-opening special until June 30. Tickets for county residents are $12 for adults and $8 for children. Keepers of the Wild is a nonprofit organization.

Normal general admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children. County residents must show identification to prove residence. For more information, call 928-769-1800.

Guided tours will run every hour on the hour. The park will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday with the first tour staring at 10 a.m. and the last tour starting at 4 p.m. The park will be closed Monday-Tuesday.

Kraft moved the animals from a three-acre site in Las Vegas in 1999 to a 32-acre site near the White Hills area. The park was moved to its current larger site two years ago.

http://www.mohavedailynews.com/articles/2007/05/30/ news/local/local10.txt

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