Political Science, Department of


Date of this Version



People and Nature. 2023;00:1–18. DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10459


Open access.


1. Community-based conservation is a widely adopted wildlife governance approach, but questions remain about the conditions under which this form of wildlife governance achieves success. Particularly, participating communities are often marked by considerable wealth and risk heterogeneities that are driven by differences in livestock or agricultural holdings and varying exposure to wildlife depredation of those holdings.

2. The effect of these types of heterogeneity on successful conservation collective action is understudied, particularly in the case of risk heterogeneity. This lacuna limits policymakers' ability to effectively match the design of community-based programs to their particular settings.

3. Using established behavioural experimental techniques, we model the incentive structures underlying community-based wildlife conservation where actors differ in wealth and exposure to human–wildlife conflict. We conduct a modified binary linear voluntary contribution mechanism game, in which we vary subject endowments and risk of incurring a loss when participating in collective action and we find that the type of heterogeneity matters to collective action success.

4. On their own, the presence of either economic or risk heterogeneities (but not both) dampen cooperation compared with homogeneous groups, as do ‘balanced’ distributions of both heterogeneities (where individuals facing high risk levels receive high endowments and vice versa). However, groups with ‘unbalanced’ heterogeneities (where those facing high risk levels receive low endowments and vice versa) demonstrate cooperation at similar levels to that of homogeneous groups.

5. At the individual level, risk drives cooperative behaviour, although its impact is influenced by relative wealth levels when both forms of heterogeneity are present.

6. These findings suggest the need for a more in-depth look at the role and interaction of risk and wealth heterogeneities in conservation management.