The Nakai Nam Theun National Park

Nam Theun 2 Watershed Area: The Nakai Nam Theun National Park

Located between the Nam Theun 2 site and the Vietnamese border towards the East, and covering a 4000 km2 area, the Nakai-Nam Theun National Park is a key area within the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, spreading across Khammouane and Bolikhamxay provinces. First classified as a NBCA (National Biodiversity Conservation Area), it was declared a national park in 2019. More recently in 2021, the Government of Laos has announced the park’s candidacy to enter the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) “Green List” of protected and conserved areas which could pave the way towards its classification has a UNESCO world heritage site. Nam Theun 2 is supporting the Government of Laos’ agenda to increase international exposure of the Nakai Nam Theun National Park, thus attracting resources towards the conservation of its unique biodiversity and the improvement

Strengthening local institutions: The Nakai Nam Theun National Park Protection Authority

With the ambition to reinforce its capacities and identify key strategic areas to develop, the National Park Protection Authority initiated in 2021 an internal “fit and gap” analysis. The results and findings of the analysis have been presented in August of 2022 and allow the park to ensure its processes are fit for purpose. The document will also allow external stakeholders to better understand its needs and prioritize resources.

Uncovering the unique biodiversity

With the area being recognized for its rich biodiversity and endemism in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the Annamite Mountain range is where some of the latest mammal discoveries took place. Most notably the Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), one of the world’s rarest large mammals, was discovered in the area in 1993 and today features on the Nakai Nam Theun National Park logo. Archiving and research activities of the life within the national park continue today with several organizations

The Chinese Swamp Cypress

Considered to be one of the most critically dangerous species of trees, the Chinese Swamp Cypress (Glyptostrobus pensilis) is exclusively found natively in Vietnam and Laos. A program was launched by the Nam Theun 2 Environment team with the help of the Nakai Nam Theun National Park Protection Authority and the National University of Laos to archive and monitor the remaining existing specimens int the national park

Field missions and data collection


In 2021, despite challenging conditions due to the global pandemic, 2 research missions were conducted by French organization IRD (Institute for Research and Development) with the help of Nakai-Nam Theun National Park:

  • A botanical survey permitted to collect data on the size and health status of the elephant’s population inside the area. 
  • An inventory mission of amphibians and reptiles took place during the wet season. In less than a week, 25 species, some of them never reported in Laos before, were spotted, confirming the ecological value of the site.
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Association Anoulak, a French association based in the Nakai-Nam Theun National Park, is working on the conservation of the biodiversity and communities within the park since 2014. In 2022, Anoulak is planning 2 extensive programs:

  • On Paa Kang fish species conservation
  • On Elephant conservation program through Environmental DNA.

Priming this unique site for world heritage status

At the end of 2020, a proposition has been made jointly with IUCN Laos to have NNT-NP apply to IUCN Green List for Protected and Conserved Areas. This joint action was formalized in early 2021 through the contribution of Nam Theun 2 in consultations that led to a white paper on protected areas in Laos and followed by a round-table at the French Embassy, with the General Director of Protected Areas (Ministry of Agriculture and Forests), French and German Ambassadors to La PDR, and conservation actors in Lao PDR (AFD, GIZ, World Bank).


Nam Theun 2 has financially and technically supported the 1st phase of the application of NNT-NP on the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas: by the end of 2022, it will result in a detailed action plan produced by IUCN experts to achieve the Green List certification. 


Benefiting from this positive momentum around National Park management, Nam Theun 2’s CEO, with the Ambassador of Lao PDR to France and the CEO of EDF, showcased NNT-NP just before the opening of the 2021 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, in which the Lao PDR attended as an official member. 


Nam Theun 2’s ambition is to raise Nakai-Nam Theun National Park profile by financing and supporting its official registration on IUCN Green List before 2023, and by involving local partners, to integrate it into the territorial development of Khammouane province.


As an international label for natural sites, the IUCN Green List label, expected to be granted within 2-3 years, will provide Nakai-Nam Theun National Park with technical support, and guide it towards good governance, allowing the park to achieve conservation outcomes successfully and respond adequately to climate change challenges and global sustainability goals.


The Green List certification must be renewed every 5 years and guarantees that conservation outcomes will be closely monitored and regularly re-adjusted if needed. As an international label, IUCN Green List attracts conservation actors, funding, and tourism development.


Perfectly in line with Lao PDR’s strategy for Protected Areas, IUCN recommendations are a useful tool to inspire other National Parks and ease the ongoing modernization of Protected Areas Management initiated by Lao Authorities in the Lao Green Growth Strategy and its 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan. IUCN Laos committed indeed to lead this application together with Hin Nam No National Park, also located in the Annamite Mountain range, further South in Laos, thus leveraging the attraction of the area.


Positive impacts on tourism are expected from these applications. Nam Theun 2 is committed to participate in discussions on eco-tourism, to make sure tourism in-flows can benefit both businesses, families, and the nature.


On the longer term, IUCN Green List registration will contribute to the inscription of Nakai-Nam Theun on the UNESCO Natural World Heritage List, in IUCN’s capacity of Advisory Body on natural World Heritage.