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.
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..