Zarith Sofia Yasin, a Malaysian singer, has been arrested after she rescued what she initially thought was a dog, only to later realize it was actually a sun bear cub, a species that is protected in Malaysia.
Yasin was driving on a dark road when she saw a weakened animal on the side of the road who looked like he was in need of help. When she first helped him, she thought he was a dog.
Even upon realizing he was a bear, she took him home to try and help him regain his strength and decided to name him Bruno.
She explained to The Star that she planned on turning him over to a zoo, but wanted to help him get healthy first.
“I was worried about sending Bruno to the zoo (while it was ill) because the animals there look skinny,” she said.
Yasin claims that she took good care of the bear, feeding him good food and didn’t keep him caged. She also dismisses any rumors about her running a business selling wildlife.
“I know the bear cannot be reared, it can’t be kept as a pet… I only wanted to save the bear, I had no intention of exploiting it,” Yasin told The Star.
Yasin’s act is now being condemned by thousands of people on social media.
“Hope people don’t find this funny,” one person wrote. “It’s awful distress for the baby bear to find itself in an environment so foreign without its mother. Where is the mother? Bear mothers are highly protective of their babies, they don’t abandon them, so think for yourself, what is the fate of the mother bear now?”
Residents of the condominium thought they heard neighbors screaming, but then realized it was a baby bear when they saw him poking his head out of her window, seemingly trying to escape. Neighbors then called the authorities who came to investigate further.
Yasin has since been arrested by the Wildlife and National Parks Department for illegally keeping a sun bear cub in her Kuala Lumpur condo.
The bear, who is around six months old, is under the care of the Department of Wildlife.
Sun bears are a protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, and are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.