Dr. Lee Talbot in Nakai District, Khammouane Province, Lao PDR © NTPC


It is with profound sadness that Nam Theun 2 has learnt of the passing of renowned conservationist Dr. Lee Talbot on 27 April 2021. He was a pioneer advocate of wildlife protection and an international environmental affairs specialist.

From 1997 to 2018, Dr. Lee Talbot took part in Nam Theun 2 early development stages as prominent member of the International Environmental and Social Panel of Experts (PoE) in charge of assessing the fulfillment of the Environmental and Social provisions of Nam Theun 2 Concession Agreement. In this capacity, he conducted numerous surveys while traveling in the project area in central Laos as soon as 1997, providing his expertise on various topics.

“As Nam Theun 2 has recently engaged in biodiversity protection in Nakai Nam Theun National Park with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which Dr. Lee Talbot led during two years as Director-General, his legacy and vision for conservation will persist in our project” – Mr Olivier Didry, CEO of Nam Theun 2.

“Among his other skills Lee was a wildlife biologist of extraordinary breadth of experience. He would identify and muse about any creature we came across on the trails and deeply lamented the decline in biodiversity around the globe and in Laos”, remember the 4 former PoE members in a joint tribute letter (you can find below this article).

“Some of our most memorable times were stimulating conversations at the end of each day about what we had heard and seen in the villages and what we should recommend accordingly. These lively exchanges often took place on the banks of the mighty Mekong where we congregated to “supervise the sunset” together.”  

Former Nam Theun 2 CEO Mr. Frederic Hofmann worked closely with the PoE from 2014 to 2018. He remembers Dr. Lee Talbot as “a very experienced and intelligent expert on environmental and social issues. He was proud to say that he was an advisor to every American president since Nixon but was always modest. He provided very useful advice to the project’s Environment & Social teams and contributed greatly to the success of the Nam Theun 2 hydropower project“.

Dr. Lee Talbot was one of the 3 experts putting his signature to the final recommendation letter sent to the Government of Lao PDR and visited the project area for the last time in 2018 and had remained a standing member of the PoE since then. Collaborators who had the chance to share some time with him remember him as a passionate expert, and an excellent ranger, trekking courageously through the jungle in his 80s.

“He was proud to say that he was an advisor to every American president since Nixon but was always modest. He provided very useful advice to the project’s Environment & Social teams and contributed greatly to the success of the Nam Theun 2 hydropower project.” – Mr. Frederic Hofmann, Nam Theun 2 CEO from 2014 to 2018

2014: Dr. Lee Talbot meeting with then Deputy Prime Minister of Laos M.G. Asang Laoly © NTPC
Dr. Lee Talbot (2nd from right) in Nakai District, Khammouane Province, Lao PDR
© NTPC
Left to right: Lee Talbot, Elizabeth Mann, David Mcdowell, Pierre Guedant (Nam Theun 2) and Rob Laking © NTPC
Dr. Lee Talbot boarding a helicopter in Khammouane Province © NTPC

Dr. Lee Talbot began his career as a wildlife biologist: as early as the 1960s, he traveled to remote areas on the five continents to conduct exploratory research expeditions. Not only did he publish over 300 scientific publications, but he also co-authored founding international texts enforcing environmental protection, among which the CITES and the World Heritage Convention. Throughout his career, he advised U.S. presidents, the United Nations, and the World Bank on environmental policies but never stopped conducting field-research. For the last 18 years, he held the position of Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University in Virginia, inspiring fellow colleagues and students. Besides his professional achievements, he was a professional award-winning auto racer for 69 years.  

The Nam Theun 2 Power Company’s shareholders, executive committee along with the whole staff would like to express their heartfelt condolences to his family.

Tribute letter from David McDowell, Thayer Scudder, Elizabeth Mann, Rob Laking, former members of Nam Theun 2 Panel of Experts

 The members of the Panel of Experts, past and present, convey their condolences to the Talbot family and notably Marty on the passing of our esteemed colleague, Lee.
 He was an enthusiastic member of the original POE from 1997, always full of energy and happy to climb any mountain in sight!
 Among his other skills Lee was a wildlife biologist of extraordinary breadth of experience. He would identify and muse about any creature we came across on the trails and deeply lamented the decline in biodiversity around the globe and in Laos. He was an articulate advocate for the conservation of habitat and species on all occasions and had a special commitment to preservation of the great forests of the Nakai Nam Theun Protected Area.
 Some of our most memorable times were stimulating conversations at the end of each day about what we had heard and seen in the villages and what we should recommend accordingly. These lively exchanges often took place on the banks of the mighty Mekong where we congregated to “ supervise the sunset” together.
 We shall miss Lee's profound knowledge, his insights into so many aspects of the Nam Theun project and the stories he recounted of the wanderings of the delightful and talented Marty and himself around the world. They were a devoted pair and always supportive of each other.
 He will be long remembered by us all.

 David McDowell, Thayer Scudder, Elizabeth Mann, Rob Laking  

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