Fauna and Endangered Wildlife of Pakistan

Markhor - National Animal of Pakistan

The Markhor (Capra Falconeri Falconeri) mainly inhabits the sparsely wooded mountainous regions in Northern and Western Pakistan, at an elevation of 600-3,600 m / 1,900-11,500 ft. The total world population is mainly found in Pakistan. Today, Markhor are present in around 20 of Pakistan's protected areas. In the northern mountainous regions is found the Kashmir and Astor Markhor. The Kashmir Markhor (C. f. cashmirensis ) is mainly confined to Chitral Gol National Park and presents the biggest population in Pakistan. Poaching has been successfully controlled and now there are over 500 Markhor in Chitral Gol National Park. The Kashmir Markhor is also found in areas of Gilgit and Azad Kashmir. The Astor Markhor (C. f. falconeri) is mainly confined to the higher hill ranges of Gilgit, Hunza and Nanga Parbat. The only good population is in the Kargah Nullah and Naltar, near Gilgit. The Kargah Nullah might have a total population of 50 Markhors. Current population estimates are less than 2,500 to 3,000 for the flared horned markhor in Pakistan. Read more about Markor at Wikipedia

Although not as rich as the African continent, but many rare and endangered species are also found in Pakistan. Generally the wild animals in Pakistan include various varieties of deer, wild boar, bear, crocodile, rare snow leopards (left) and waterfowl. The wetlands and lakes provide natural habitat for a number of including coated otter, Indus dolphin, fishing cat, hog deer, and wild boar. During the migration season, at least 1 million waterfowl representing more than 100 species visit the extensive deltas and wetlands of Pakistan. Pakistan’s rivers and coastal waters contain many types of freshwater and saltwater fish, including sharks, mackerel, herring and shellfish.


Of the 4,100 mammal species in the world, Pakistan is home to only 188, including 25 hoofed animals. While Pakistan abounds in various types of antelopes, deer, jackal and foxes, brown and black bears and Snow Leopards (left) are disappearing due to expansion of villages and small towns. The "Urial" (below left) with its rounded horns is an often sight in the hills and mountains of Pothohar Plateau and northern areas. Frequently hunted, their number is also decreasing gradually. Other mammals include the Markhor, Himalayan or Siberian Ibex (below 2nd from left), Sind Wild Goat (third from left), Chiltan Wild Goat (below center), Marco Polo Sheep, Bharal or Blue Sheep, Goral Sheep (below right). The Cholistan desert in the province of Punjab contains some of the rare wildlife in Pakistan, like the Desert Wolf, Indian fox, Red fox, Jackal, Small Indian civet, Indian grey mongoose, Indian desert cat, Jungle cat, Caracal cat, Chinkara gazelle, Blackbuck and Nil-gai antelope.

In view of the decreasing wild life, the government has short listed six parks for their development. These include Lal Sohanra National Park (Bahawalpur - Punjab), Kirthar National Park (Sindh), Khunjerab National Park (Northern Areas), Chiltan Hazarganji, National Park (Balochistan), Margalla Hills National Park (Islamabad) and Chitral Gol National Park (NWFP). In addition, Pakistan has 14 National Parks, 99 Wildlife Sanctuaries, and 96 Game Reserves. Kirthar National Park has the distinction of being the first park on the UN list of Protected areas. The Lalsuhanra Park in Punjab is listed as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme. Similarly, 9 wetlands in the country are protected under the International Convention on Wetlands. The Hazarganji National Park in Balochistan is managed by the WWF and contains a population of the Chilton markhor, not found anywhere else. The marshy Runn of Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary also has Wild Ass, Blue bull, Chinkara and Desert wolf. Once the only population of the Indian Wild Ass or Onager wass found here - but not anymore as they are thought to have been exterminated. The beautiful "Nil-gai" is also occasionally found here. The Naltar Wildlife Sanctuary has been able to contain a small population of Astor Markhor. The surrounding hills of Hub Dam Wildlife Sanctuary is home of Urial, Sind wild goat, Chinkara gazelle, Wolf, Jackal, Common fox, Pangolin and numerous other birds and reptiles. Read More


There are forty-nine species of pheasants found all over the world, of which six are found in Pakistan. These include Blue Peafowl, Kalij, Koklass, Cheer, and Western Tragopan. The Dhodial Pheasantry near Abbottabad is one of the the largest pheasantry in Asia. The Pheasantry has been proudly able to breed "Cheer" in captivity, a bird otherwise extinct in the country. In 1997 a parent flock of 40 pairs was raised, which has doubled now. The release of Cheer, for re-introduction, has also been started. This success, has given international fame to the pheasantry.
In Pakistan, an estimated population of one million birds migrates during winter. Most of them land on the wetlands along the Indus River in the Sind Province. These freshwater wetlands provide suitable habitats and feeding opportunities to a wide variety of water-birds passing through Indus flyway. Nara canal with associated marshlands in Khairpur, Drig Lake in Larkana, Haleji and Keenjhar Lakes in Thatta, are some of the favourite wintering abodes of migratory water-birds. These include many species of duck family like Mallards, Pintails, Shovelers, Teals, Wigeon, Garganeys and Shelducks etc, beside Coots, Moorhens, Gallinules, Waterhen and Grebes etc. A large population of Shorebirds also reaches in coastal area of Sindh like the Curlews, Whimbrels, Godwits, Shanks, Sandpipers, Stints and Dunlin etc. Other wading birds like Flamingoes, Pelicans, Spoonbills and Ibises can also be sighted on both upcountry wetlands and on tidal estuaries along the seashores.
The 'Rasul Barrage Wildlife Sanctuary'. After monsoon, environs are green and this wetland is full lotus. Flocks of Siberians Cranes and Strokes and local black winged Stilts are the common winter sights in the area. Though at the dawn of a hot August day, I was able to see only few Tobas perching over their morning catch or a few flocks of Murghabis (wild ducks). The marshy Runn of Kutch and its surrounding desert area in Sindh is known to be a breeding ground for Flamingoes and staging ground for Pelicans, Cranes, Storks and many species of waterfowl.

People in the villages are fond of having pet birds, specially the speaking parrots, black partridges and quails etc. The much famous phrase "Mian Mitho Choori Khani Hai" (asking parrot if he wants to eat a home made sweet made from local bread, sugar and butter/desi ghee) is echoed almost everywhere when someone comes across a red beaked parrot that has a red ring around its neck.


The Green Turtle is the second largest species of marine turtle family after the Leatherback turtle. It can grow up to 3.5 feet in carapace size, and could be as heavy as 180 kilogram. In Pakistan, Green Turtle nests for eggs on Sandspit and Hawksbay beaches (Karachi) throughout the year with a remarkable apex from September to January. Every year, an average of 800 nests has been observed at beaches of Karachi, besides some coastal areas of of the Balochistan province. However, the Green Turtles are facing extinction all over the world due to low growth rate and environmental constraints.

The Marine Turtle Project in Pakistan is the last hope for the survival of Green Turtles in our region. Though, the population of turtles has not been increased so far, however it has been sustained to an extent that the Green Turtle can still be seen nesting at the beaches of Karachi. If the project was not there, our next generation would have never known how the Green Turtle looked like.

Other Reptiles

The "Gharial" or the crocodiles are found in lakes and marshes around Karachi. Manghoo Pir, shrine of a saint omce had many crocodiles in the pond inside the shrine, but now only a few are left. The Nara Desert Wildlife Sanctuary has the largest population of the endangered Mugger Crocodile in Pakistan, besides Jackal, Fox, Pangolin, Honey Badger and Wolf.
There are around 55 species of sea snakes which are found in the seas of the world but in the coastal waters of Pakistan, only 14 species have so far been recorded. Sea snakes include the group of poisonous snakes which have fangs that are fixed in front of the upper jaw. This type of fang is called Proteroglyphous. On land, poisonous snakes. Cobra and Krait, have such fangs. Another type of fang called Solenoglyphous does not exist in sea snakes as it is characteristic of Vipers. Some species include Beaked Sea Snake, Short Sea Snake, Cantor small-headed sea snake, Yellow Sea Snake etc.

Fish and Marine Life: Pakistan has approximately 200 freshwater fish species. The South Asian species dominate the fish fauna in Pakistan, while some West Asian species are also found. About 8-10 species of Snow Trout are found in the rivers of the northern mountains and provide a spectacular view during their against the current journey in ice cold water. The major source of fish in Pakistan is the Indus River plains, Kirthar range and the Himalayan foothills. The famous fish species include "Rahoo, Singhara, Malli" and others. More than a 1000 species inhabit Pakistani coastal waters. The fish fauna can be divided into two groups, the cartilaginous and bony fishes. Cartilaginous fish include sharks, skates and rays and their skeleton is made of cartilage. Bony fish have hard bony skeletons.
In addition to fish, some 700 marine species of invertebrates include crab, shrimp and prawn and another 300 species of shellfish. Both categories of species are of significant economic importance to Pakistan. 

Endangered Species: Some of the threatened or endangered species in Pakistan include the snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, blue sheep, ibex (a type of wild goat), the Houbura Bustard and the Indus Dolphin. These animals can still be found in remote and protected areas of the Himalayas. Similarly, Indus Dolphin is also declared as endangered species and some 400-500 number are left between the Kotri and Guddu Barrages in river Indus. The woolly flying squirrel, an endangered mammal has also been sighted once, in Gich, District Ghizer of Gilgit. The mammal is also listed in the threatened animals category.

The the total remaining population of Snow Leopard is estimated around 7,000-10,000 worldwide, of which around 300 are found in Pakistan. Anyone who can venture up to Nagar Valley, 65 kilometres north of Gilgit, one has a fair chance of siting the big cat, preferably at dawn or dusk. The Baltistan Wildlife Sanctuary covering 415 square kilometers in Baltistan, contiguous with the Astor Wildlife Sanctuary to its south and east and south of the Indus River, is basically established to protect the Snow Leopard besides Brown Bear, Lynx, Tibetan wolf, Tibetan fox, Markhor, Blue sheep and Asiatic ibex. Recently, an animal husbandry program in Chitral has been established which combines science to provide a new approach to save snow leopards.

Marcopolo Sheep is recognized by the very long outward curving horns, developed in the mature males. An aged ram is is very impressive and majestic, mainly because of massive spiraling horns which can span a man's outstretched arms and almost twice the height and size of most other wild or domestic sheep. The Marco Polo sheep is an inhabitant of very high mountains subject to severely cold winds and climatic conditions throughout the year. Currently, its population is confined to northwestern part of Hunza district along the Chinese border. Here, between spring and autumn, it occupies two sperate valleys in the northwest section of Khunjerab National Park, and also inhabits the Kilik-Mintaka border area, just west of the National Park. Marco Polo sheep is probably the most endangered of Pakistan's wild sheep and goats, and unless action is taken immediately they will probably become extinct.
Kilik/Mintaka Game Reserve along the border with China, east of the KKH and the Khunjerab National Park has been specially created to provide 65,000 hectares for preservation of Marco Polo sheep habitat.

The Houbara Bustard has been over hunted as a game bird in Pakistan and is officially protected. But despite all restrictions, some royalties of the Gulf states find it convenient to come on official trips and hunt this poor bird with falcons. In the evenings, the hunted bustards are skewered and eaten - as simple as that.

An endangered species of bear, found only in the northern areas of Pakistan, could face extinction of its already small population in a specially designated national park. The population of the Himalayan Brown Bear is a mere 30 animals, up from the 19 reported in 1993, while the official wildlife department figures are 62. The Deosai Plains are one of the habitat of this almost extinct species. The Baltistan Wildlife Sanctuary is struggling hard to conserve the Brown Bear besides Snow Leopard, Lynx, Tibetan wolf and fox, Markhor, Blue sheep and Asiatic ibex.  

Related Links: |  Wild Life Sanctuaries in Pakistan National Animal of Pakistan (excellent video of Markor and Snow Leopards) |

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