The CKNP is a refuge area not only for threatened species, i.e. markhor, musk deer, urial, Marco Polo sheep (presence to be confirmed in CKNP) and snow leopard, but also for not threatened but important “flag” species, i.e. blue sheep, ibex, lynx and wolf. The CKNP was proposed in the early 90’s of the XX Century to protect the major mountain massifs, watersheds and glaciers of the Central Karakorum region and to form a contiguous conservation area with the Kunjerab National Park and the Deosai National Park. In practice, the status of the threatened large mammal species inhabiting the Central Karakorum National Park is almost unknown, but some information indicates that numbers of the snow leopard and especially of markhor are very low and close to their biological threshold.
Over-hunting, habitat loss and isolation of small populations have probably been the main reasons for this depletion.
Snow leopards are large cats, most active at dawn and dusk. They have long thick fur, from smoky grey to yellowish tan, with whitish underparts, and dark grey to black open rosettes on their body (with small spots on their heads and larger spots on their legs and tail). Snow leopards show adaptations to live in cold mountainous environments: stocky bodies, thick fur, small and rounded ears to decrease heat loss from the body. Their feet are large, and the tail is long and flexible, which helps them to maintain their balance while chasing prey in precipitous terrain.
Lynxes have very short tails, with long powerful legs and large paws. The short tail has a thick black tip,but no black rings above. Their ears terminate in long, black hair tufts, and their cheeks are framed by longer white and black hair. Their overall body colour is silvery grey, with a reddish under fur, showing more reddish tones in summer coat. Immature lynxes have black spots all over the body, which fade with age, although some adults still show faint spots on the outside of the upper limbs and forehead.
Brown bears have furry coats in shades of blonde, brown, black,or a combination of these colours.
The longer outer guard hairs of the brown bear are often tipped with white or silver, giving a “grizzled”appearance. Their heads are large and round with a concave facial profile, a characteristic used to distinguish them from other bears. Like all bears, brown bears are plantigrades and can stand up on their hind legs for extended periods of time. Males are 40-50% larger than females.
The Indian wolf (present in Central-South Pakistan) is smaller in size than the Tibetan wolf (Northern Areas). The wolf is greyish brown (the Indian one) to creamy (the Tibetan) in colour, with paler legs and face and the upper back and dorsal surface of tail with black hair. The front feet have five toes, the inner one being vestigial (not visible in pugmarks), and the hind feet have four toes. Claws are irretractable.
Red foxes have elongated bodies and relatively short limbs. They are the largest species of the genus Vulpes. In the typical red morph, their coats are generally bright reddish-rusty with yellowish tints. A stripe of weak, diffuse patterns of many brown-reddish-chestnut hairs occurs along the spine. Two additional stripes pass down the shoulder blades which, together with the spinal stripe, form a cross. The lower back is often a mottled silvery colour. The flanks are lighter coloured than the back, while the chin, lower lips, throat and front of the chest are white. The remaining lower surface of the body is dark, brown or reddish. The upper parts of the limbs are rusty-reddish, while the paws are black. The top of the tail is brownish-reddish, but lighter in colour than the back and flanks. The tip of the tail is white.
The appearance of the Corsac fox is fairly typical among the Vulpes species. It is grey to greyish-red in colour with silver undertones. The underparts are white with yellow undertones. The back is intensively hoary-reddish. The tip of the tail is black.
Stone martens are long, slender, short-legged mustelid predators with long, bushy tails. Their brown coats have a forked white marking at the throat. Its nose is of a light peach or grey colour. Its feet are not so densely furred, thus making them look less broad, with the paw pads remaining visible even in winter.
Marmots are large rodents, with flat head and short neck. Their body shape and size reflect the partly subterranean life, being streamlined and flexible: marmots are capable of pushing their way through narrow holes. Hind legs are shorter than forelegs. The large eyes are close to the top of the head, allowing the animal to see the terrain above ground while remaining inside the burrow. Ears are small and barely extend beyond the fur. Long whiskers are located on checks, lower jaw, around the nose, and eyes.
The coat colouration varies widely across ibex’s range. The general colour of the pelage is a light tan, with the undersides lighter. In winter, mature males become much darker, with varying patches of white on the neck and back. Males have a beard. Both sexes have horns. Females show slender, shorter, backward curving horns, while males have massive horns, flattened on their front edge and roughly triangular in cross section.
A large wild goat, formerly found throughout the mountains from Kashmir and Turkestan to Afghanistan, but now greatly reduced in numbers and range. Habitat loss, overhunting (for meat and trophies), and competition with livestock are the main causes of its decline. The markhor stands about 95–102 cm at the withers and has long corkscrew-shaped horns. Its coat is reddish brown in summer and long, grey, and silky in winter. The male has a long, heavy fringe on its throat and chest.
Bharal or blue Sheep
Despite their name, blue sheep are neither blue nor sheep: they are slate-grey to brownish and closer to the goats than to the sheep, as morphological, behavioural, and molecular analyses have shown. Blue sheep are sexually dimorphic, with males larger than females. Adult males have rather large, backward-sweeping horns, whereas females have very small horns. They are not present in the Park but they may migrate into it.
The urial is a medium-size wild sheep. The face is generally greyish, the long slender legs and belly are creamy-white while the body fur is a reddish-grey colour. Adult rams show a chest ruff, predominantly white in the throat region and black as it extends down to the sternum. In summer coat the ruff is much shorter, but still conspicuous. Urial males have large horns, curling outwards from the top of the head, turning in to end somewhere behind the head. On the contrary, females have shorter, compressed horns.
Musk deer are primitive deer, not having antlers, but a pair of tusklike upper canines. Both sexes have well-developed upper canines, and in males these grow 7-14 cm (3-5 inches) long and protrude from the mouth in a fang-like manner. The canines are constantly growing, but, they are also easily broken, due to their mobility and fragility. It looks like a small deer with a stocky build, and hind legs longer than front legs. The general colour of the coat is a slightly grizzled dark brown. The ears are large and rounded, generally lined with whitish fur. The musk gland is found only in adult males. It lies in a sac located between the genitals and the umbilicus, and its secretions are most likely used to attract mates and mark the territory. Musk deer have been hunted for their scent glands which can fetch up to U.S. $45,000/ kg on the black market. It is rumoured that scent of the musk deer is an aphrodisiac.
The Gilgit and Baltistan Region of Pakistan has one of the most diverse avifauna of the mountain regions of the world, but unfortunately little information is available on the distribution, status and ecology of many of the bird species. Around 90 species of birds are known to occur in the CKNP in 13 families. Common snow cock, Chukar, rock pigeon, snow pigeon, oriental turtle dove, booted eagle, and common kestrel are among the common resident birds of the area.
Common hoopoe, common cuckoo, common swift and Eurasian nightjar represent summer breeding birds of the area. Hen harrier, Eurasian skylark, Spanish sparrow, Himalayan accentor, Eurasian goldfinch, and pine bunting are winter visitors to the area.
Rare birds of the CKNP include snow partridge, Himalayan Monal, golden eagle, alpine accentor, mountain finch, and Hume’s Wheatear.
The CKNP is endowed with a wealth of fresh water resources from river, stream to alpine lakes.
The fish fauna is relatively poor due to high turbidity, low water temperature, high water speedband long stretches of narrow gorges of rivers.
Recent studies report about 17 species of native fish and three of exotic fishes, belonging to five families. Out of these 17 native species, four are endemic to the GB; while several others have restricted range confined to one or two localities. For example, species Triplophysa stoliczkai, Ptychobarbus conirostis, and Schizopygopsis stoliczkai are only found in eastern water-heads up to Kachura, close to Skardu city.