A Malaysian Singer has been charged by a court after she was arrested last week for keeping a sun bear at home, notwithstanding her claims that she had rescued the animal after mistaking it for an injured dog.
"It was night time when I found the bear cub in a weakened state by the side of the road, and I thought it was dog!” 27-year-old Zarith Sofia Yasin, a former contestant on reality singing show Rockanova, had told Malay daily publication Kosmo. A video of the animal peeking out of a window of her condo in Kuala Lumpur had gone viral on social media, prompting a raid on June 7 by Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia.
She later told The Star that she had taken the animal home to nurse it back to health. "I know the bear cannot be reared, it can't be kept as a pet,” she said. "I only wanted to save the bear, I had no intention of exploiting it.”
Zarith was arrested on suspicion of keeping an endangered animal in her condo, while online commentators accused her of trapping the bear in her home with the intention of selling it illegally.
She said she didn't put the bear, listed as vulnerable to extinction by International Union for Conservation of Nature, in a cage because “I didn't want him to stay there for too long—that would have been even more cruel.”
"I have a business to run during the day and at night, I sing… when do I have time to sell animals?” she had said. "This is not the way I make a living. Animals like that are not for sale."
Zarith also insisted she had taken good care of Bruno by feeding him well. "If Bruno could talk, it would surely say the food I gave him was delicious. It ate chocolates!" she was quoted as saying.
Bruno, who is thought to be five to seven months old, was found in good health by authorities. He has since been sent to a wildlife rescue centre.
Zarith, meanwhile, claimed trial at a Sessions Court in Malaysia to two charges, according to reports.
If convicted under Section 69 (1) of Malaysia’s Wildlife Protection Act, she could face a maximum fine of RM200,000 (S$65,000) or jail of up to 10 years, or both.
Another charge under Section 86 (1C) of the same Act carries a fine of between RM5,000 and RM50,000 or imprisonment of up to one year, or both, on conviction.