Jonathan Kraft believes recognition that exotic animals are in crisis all over the world and dedication to saving them has seen his Wild Planet animal refuge blueprint grow from a $40-to-$50-million project in northwest Arizona.

The master-planned refuge is proposed over a 2,480-acre area about 35 miles northwest of Kingman and about the same distance south of Hoover Dam. Kraft said groundbreaking within the next few months should see the Wild Planet open for business sometime in 2019.

Kraft said countries around the globe are adopting laws that are putting circuses, some zoos and other animal exploitative enterprises out of business and in need of finding homes for their castaways. He and his partners intend to capitalize upon that and develop an environmentally friendly safe haven for wild animals that will draw tourists, boost the economy and serve as a place of learning.

“We really want to focus on education. We’ve met with UNLV professors as well as representatives of Arizona State University,” Kraft said. He said they’re also engaged with Animal Defenders International and other animal protection and activist organizations to ensure a safe supply of “stock” for the Wild Planet.

Kraft was involved in the entertainment industry in Las Vegas when he decided to establish a wild animal refuge in Arizona more than 20 years ago. The Keepers of the Wild Nature Park that first opened in community of White Hills off U.S. 93 was relocated to its current home in the Route 66 community of Valentine.

Kraft said the success of the “Keepers” operation has bolstered confidence of his supporters and investors in the much larger Wild Planet project. He said Mohave County officials have been helpful with the new enterprise because of his successful track record.

Use of a solar powered train is envisioned to transport people within the Wild Planet park from one section to another where visitors will walk on elevated platforms to view the animal menagerie and habitats below that will likely include lions, tigers, elephants and other displaced exotic wildlife.