The world of Malaysian reality TV stars is a wild one. Zarith Sofia Yasin, a 27-year-old singer from Malaysia, has been charged with allegedly keeping a sun bear in her apartment in Kuala Lumpur, as reported by The Jakarta Post.
Yasin, who once appeared on the Mayalsian reality show Rockanova, claims the unlikely roommate came into her possession after she spotted an injured dog – or so she thought – on the side of the road.
At some point, she realized that the small fuzzy animal was actually a young sun bear, but decided to take it home and nurse it back to health regardless. Yasin claims she was hoping to give the bear, named Bruno, to a local zoo once it had regained its strength.
"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 a dog," she told Mayaslian newspaper The Star.
"I was worried about sending Bruno to the zoo [while it was ill] because the animals there look skinny.”
Bizarre videos of the sun bear cub poking its head out of her window circulated through social media. Eventually, the authorities came knocking and she was charged with illegally holding the sun bear. Under Malaysian law, you can receive a maximum of 200,000 Malaysian ringgit (~$50,000) or 10 years of jail time for possessing a protected species without a permit.
It’s alleged she planned to sell the bear, although she denies this accusation. She said she knows "it can't be kept as a pet," and that she "only wanted to save the bear."
Fortunately, the 6-month-old sun bear is now safe and sound in the hands of the local Wildlife and National Parks Department.
Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) are a species native to the tropical forest of Southeast Asia and are listed as “vulnerable” under the IUCN Red List. The species is omnivores, primarily feeding on termites, ants, beetle larvae, bee larvae, and fruits. They get their name from the distinctive yellow patch on their face and chest.
Remarkably, this is not the first time a bear has been mistaken for a dog. A family in southwest China reportedly kept an 82-kilogram (180-pound) Asiatic black bear as a pet for two years before realizing it was not a just a big dog.