Despite the fact that the climate of the Karakum desert in Turkmenistan is quite severe, many different species of animals live in its expanses. There you can meet long-eared hedgehog, Brandt’s hedgehog and tolai hare, as well as gerbils, jerboas and other rodents. The great Balkan mouse-like hamster is one of a number of mammals endemic to this region.
At the moment, the corsac fox and the jackal are the most common predators in the Karakum desert. Much rarer but still found species typical of the deserts of Central Asia: the sand cat, the caracal and fennec fox. In the relatively recent past, cheetahs could be found in the Karakum desert. The latest information about them dates back to the 1960s.
The image of a two-humped Bactrian camel is strongly associated with the Karakum desert. However, at the moment, scientists cannot say for sure whether the wild ancestor of the domesticated Bactrian lived in these places earlier, or whether these camels appeared here together with humans already after domestication.
Many reptiles live in the Karakum Desert. There are more 80 species of them. Among the most significant species we can name the desert monitor, the European pond turtle, the Caspian turtle, the Russian tortoise, the dice snake, the dwarf sand boa or eryx miliaris, and the Transcaspian saw-scaled viper. There are also skinks, geckos, agamas, wall lizards, the European legless lizard, vipers, rat snakes, and the blind snake. Another local species is the Turkmen gecko.
The diversity of bird species in the Karakum desert is not so extensive. The most common birds here are the saxaul jay, cattle serpent, sand finch, larks, desert raven, desert and saxaul sparrows. In the north-east of the Karakum, there is Lake Sarykamysh, which is a habitat and nesting place for many waterfowl including pelicans, coots and cormorants.