This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
Last week, a Malaysian singer was arrested for keeping a wild animal in her home. That animal turned out to be a sun bear—but 27-year-old Zarith Sofia Yasin, a former contestant on reality singing show Rockanova, insisted that she thought it was a 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!” Zarith told Malay daily publication Kosmo—later explaining to The Star that she’d found the animal nearly two weeks earlier and picked it up in the hope that she could rescue it and 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.”
On June 7, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan for short) raided Zarith’s condo unit in Desa Pandan, Kuala Lumpur, following a tip-off from a local resident. Someone had reportedly spotted the bear sticking its head through the open window of the unit “crying out for help,” in an incident that was filmed and uploaded to Facebook:
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. Two days after her arrest, the disgraced singer came forward to tell her side of the story and to clarify her intentions with Bruno.
As Zarith tells it, her aim was always to hold on to the bear until it regained its strength and she could hand it over to the zoo. "I didn't put him in a cage because I didn't want him to stay there for too long—that would have been even more cruel,” she said, as a way of explaining why the animal was roaming loose around in her apartment, and denounced allegations that she had hoped to sell Bruno off.
"I have a business to run during the day and at night, I sing… when do I have time to sell animals?” she said. "This is not the way I make a living. Animals like that are not for sale."
Zarith further noted that she had taken good care of Bruno and fed him well, suggesting that "if Bruno could talk, it would surely say the food I gave him was delicious. It ate chocolates!"
Bruno is estimated to be between five to seven months old, and was in good health when seized by authorities. He has since been sent to a wildlife rescue centre. The Star reported that authorities have not yet decided whether the bear should return to the wild, given its young age.
Zarith, meanwhile, says she is ready to face the legal consequences of her actions.
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