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Shocking footage offers reminder that big-game hunting is still big business

Paul Tyson, ITV News

The video is shocking: Wild animals are shot from moving vehicles then left to die in agony. A hunter runs over a gazelle with his car, another shoots an injured zebra at point blank range. Automatic weapons are seen, silencers and pistols too.

A boy of no more than 12 leans out of a car window with a rifle and joins in the slaughter. In one scene a terrified zebra foal is wrestled to the ground then paraded for the camera like a trophy.

More shocking perhaps is the fact that this footage - which we have chosen not to publish in full - was not uncovered by police or leaked by a whistle-blower but taken from a promotional video: an advert for Green Mile Safaris in Tanzania.

A young boy is shown shooting in the promotional video.

The Dallas Safari Club, an American hunting organisation who alerted the Tanzanian authorities to its existence said: “Without question the video depicts some of the most abhorrent displays of unethical hunting behaviour and animal abuse ever recorded.”

Only after the video was shown in parliament did the government take action, stripping the company of its hunting concessions including two in the world-famous Selous Game reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But few here think that’s the end of the story - in Tanzania big-game hunting is not only big business, it’s politics too.

Hunting blocks are allocated by the government every three years in an opaque system that has long fuelled claims of corruption.

According to Tanzanian opposition MP Peter Mswiga the video “raises questions on how Green Mile, a recently established company, could be awarded such prime hunting blocks ahead of many well-known Tanzanian owned companies."

"Was it just a case of politically well-connected people being awarded the majority of the blocks?" he asked.

Green Mile owners Awadh Ally Abdallah and Abdullah Bin Butti Alhamed, both seen in the video, are Gulf-based but politically well-connected in Tanzania.

Their clients on the hunt were members of the Al Nahyan family, one of the six ruling families of the UAE.

Despite the evidence in the video the Green Mile owners deny wrongdoing and say they are the victims of a smear campaign based on a commercial dispute over hunting rights. They even plan to sue the Tanzanian Government.

An injured zebra is shot at near point-blank range.

Their confidence may be well-placed - although the actions on the video break any number of laws, Green Miles face no charges.

“One may ask why has the government arrested neither of them? The actions done by the directors/shareholders and professional hunters may be confused as poaching if not confirming it...the evidence in the DVD is very clear” said Peter Mswiga.

The Tanzanian government presents big-game hunting as part of it’s conservation strategy, bringing much-needed revenue to areas where photographic tourism is not viable, some of which is used to protect wildlife.

One man is shown trying to stamp on a gazelle's legs as another holds it by the horns.

Critics say the lack of transparency in the allocation of hunting blocks and the absence of official oversight mean any benefit hunting could bring to wildlife conservation is negated.

The Green Mile video, they say, is just the tip of the iceberg.