Butterflies of the Hunza Region, Northern Pakistan and Adjacent Afghanistan.


  • D. S. Smith
  • G. Naseer
  • Z. Bálint
  • S. A. Hasan


Afghanistan, Asia, Baltistan, Baluchistan, Bhutan, biogeography, Central Asia, China, Chitral, Diamar, distribution, ecology, Ghizer, Gilgit, Gojal, Hesperiidae, Himalayas, Hindu Kush, India, Karakoram, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Kohistan, Lycaenidae, Nepal, Nymphalidae, Palearctic, Pamirs, Papilionidae, Pieridae, Rhopalocera, Riodinidae, Sikkim, Sinkiang, Skardu, Tajikistan, taxonomy, Tibet, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Wakhan, Waziristan


The virtually unknown butterfly fauna of the western Karakoram, centered on the Hunza Valley, with extremely difficult terrain and with precipitous mountain slopes and many peaks of 20,000ft to 25,000ft and above, was studied from 1994 to 2000. Field work in July and/or August from 1994 to 2000 on butterflies was carried out in 24 localities along the Karakoram Highway (KKH), from Gilgit to the border with China (Khunjerab Pass), plus side valleys, with particular attention paid to high altitude sites over 13,OOOft.The interface between Palearctic and Oriental faunistic zones was defined. Khunjerab Pass was worked several times on each visit; other high altitude sites assessed including Mintaka and Kilik passes to China and the Irshad Uwin and Dilsun passes to Wakhan, Afghanistan. Several high altitude species, particularly of the genera Parnassius, Colias, Karanasa, Melitaea, Sipora and Polyommatus, were not found below 15,000ft. Records from these four passes broke new ground since they lie in territory off-limits for over half a century until 1999. Three visits were made to the Deosai Plateau, Baltistan, 150 miles SSE of Hunza and isolated from it by high mountains and extensive glaciers. A total of 109 butterfly species were recorded from the Hunza complex and Deosai combined; and, of the Deosai fauna of 28 taxa recorded, 9 (32%) diverged from the Hunza fauna. Altitudinal distributions for each species were tabulated. Forty species were recorded from a single foray into Wakhan (NE Afghanistan): 11 (27.5%) of these were never been found in seven years' work in Hunza, underlining the sharpness of the distinction between Karakoram and Pamir faunas across a very short distance. Preliminary lists of angiosperm plants for Khunjerab Pass and the approach to Kilik Pass are presented. Actual and potential habitat degradation by over-grazing at high altitude was assessed, at worst, as severe. All records obtained will serve as reference points for future studies on butterflies of this region of the Karakoram.