The Nakai Nam Theun National Protected Area is the second largest protected area in the Lao PDR, covering approximately 3,445,000 hectares in the heart of the Greater Northern Annamites range in Khammouane and Bolikhamxayprovinces of central Lao PDR. Nakai is a very important area for biodiversity in Southeast Asia and the world, home to many endemic species of the Annamites recently discovered by science, including the Saola, small dark muntjac and Giant Muntjac, and the Indochinese warty pig which was rediscovered in 1997 after being considered extinct. Nakai is also home to at least nine species of primates including pygmy loris, douc langur, Francois’ langur and white-cheeked crested gibbon. The Nakai ecosystem is a rich mix of forests that include evergreen forest, semi-evergreen forest, deciduous dipterocarp forest, pine stands, montane fagaceous forest, rhododendron-dominated cloud forest, riverine forest and ever-wet forest.
- Nakai Nam Theun is Lao PDR’s second largest national protected area
- Three of the last five large mammals to be discovered or rediscovered world-wide occur in Nakai.
- Asian Elephant and Gaur inhabit the Nakai area.
- A recently described bird species called the Bare-faced Bulbul is found in Nakai.
- The elevations in Nakai range from 500-2,200.
Nakai Nam Theun is heavily threatened by poachers entering the area from the border area between Lao PDR and Vietnam. Due the area’s large size and long border with Vietnam, keeping out poachers is a major challenge. Illegal logging of high value timber species in the core zone is another high threat to the area’s biodiversity. Nakai is accessible by road in many areas, creating a challenge stopping illegal timber extraction. Managing human-elephant conflict between Nakai's wild elephant population and the area's surrounding villages is another issue, as the range of elephants is in reality larger than the Nakai Nam Theun NPA alone causing periodic movement of elephants through surrounding rice fields and villages.
Wildlife Conservation Society has been working in Nakai Nam Theun since the 1990s, being the fist organization to assist the government with biodiversity surveys of the area. The protected area is now managed by the Watershed Management Protection Agency (WMPA), which was set up by the Nam Theun 2 dam project to manage the national protected area with long-term funding from the dam. WCS supports the WMPA by providing technical advice on enforcement activities, biodiversity monitoring, and reducing human-wildlife conflict with wild elephants.