Lion Cub Bounced from Breeder to Auction to Zoo

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Keepers of the Wild

Keepers of the wild rescues one more orphan

Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 2:05 PM MDT

A new baby in the family is a special event. In the case of the arrival of Anthony, the event piques the interest of many outside the family as well. You see, Anthony is a baby lion cub and the family he joins is the menagerie of the Keepers of the Wild animal sanctuary located northeast of Kingman.

Each animal in the sanctuary has a story as to how and why it came to be there. Anthony is no exception. According to the sanctuary’s founder and director, Jonathan Kraft, the little lion cub could be a poster child for the cause and purpose of the sanctuary—the rescue of abused, neglected, abandoned and retired captive wildlife.

In short, Anthony was a two-and-a-half weeks old lion cub who was bounced around from a small zoo in West Virginia to an exotic animal auction in Missouri where he was illegally acquired by an owner in Washington state. He was then offered for sale to Keepers of the Wild who informed the seller that the whole deal is illegal and Keepers isn’t in the buying animals business. Anthony was then quickly “donated” to Keepers and finally found a true home.

Anthony was in fragile condition (suffering from parasites, cage rub, a broken tail, and a condition called “ano preputial cleft malformation) and will need ongoing medical attention, but is growing stronger every day.

Anthony can consider himself one lucky lion because his “extended” family is a colorful assortment of lions, tigers, wolves, leopards, coati mundis, monkeys, birds, emus, ostriches, deer, a desert tortoise named Bob, and more.

That’s because Kraft is an animal lover of the first degree, trading in his life as an entertainer in Las Vegas to become the founder, director, publicity director, fund-raiser, food buyer, guru, head pubah and bottle washer of his wildlife sanctuary, a 175-acre parcel of land on Historic Route 66 northeast of Kingman in a little place called Valentine (what better place to establish his labor of love…).

More than 200 animals call the sanctuary home, many of which came to Kraft because their owners realized too late that wild animals don’t make very good house pets. Some of those “lessons” learned too late include:

•Bandit, a male cougar who was a gift for a nine-year old girl;

•Curtis, another male cougar, who was the pet of Slash from the rock band Guns ‘n’ Roses. Curtis was allowed to roam free at the rock star’s home and ended up seriously injuring Slash’s wife;

•Zeus and Nico, two Bengal tiger brothers, were taken from a couple in Florida before animal control could close them down for violation of exotic pet ownership regulations.

Many of Kraft’s residents made their way to his sanctuary via stardom. Photographers often use large cats in commercials and print campaigns but according to the United States Department of Agriculture, large cats can only be used in that capacity until they are six months old or weigh 80 pounds.

And some of the animals were rescued before they made it to black market auctions, where they would have ended up as prey in canned hunts.

Kraft decided to rescue the animals, give them a home and then open up his project to the public. Something of a win, win, win situation because the animals are now safe and the public has the opportunity to see the animals in an environment that’s a bit more up-close and personal than a zoo.

“We couldn’t be in a better spot for what we do,” Kraft said. “The park is right on Route 66 and the canyon lends itself perfectly. I took a chance to bring the animals here. It was a good call. Things couldn’t have worked out any better and the animals are thriving.

“My goal is to educate as many people as possible?on wildlife. Animals and people need to co-exist in a positive way. The only way to end black market trading and exotic pet ownership is through education.

Visiting the Park…

Visitors can take advantage of Kraft’s dedication and see the wildlife (including Anthony) up-close and personal via one of several guided tours or by walking the paths of the sanctuary themselves. Each tour correlates with snack time for the animals so visitors won’t have to watch tigers sleep.

“Visitors are always six-feet away at minimum,” Kraft explains. “We want them to have the experience but we have to maintain everyone’s safety, including the animals.”

The park doesn’t have a food outlet but visitors are allowed to bring their own food and have a picnic at one of the many tables placed throughout the park.


Big Cat Rescue’s Note:  Glad to see that Jonathan Kraft is speaking out against the trade in exotic cats as pets and we would like to add that the best way to end the black market trade and exotic pet ownership is through the education of lawmakers who can pass legislation to end this abuse.  More at

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