KUALA LUMPUR, June 12 — Zarith Sofia Mohd Yasin today claimed trial to two charges of illegally keeping a sun bear cub, a protected animal under the law, in her condominium unit.
In the first charge, the 27-year-old singer from Johor was accused of harbouring a sun bear cub (Helarctos malayanus) without a special permit under Section 69(1) of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.
The second charge under Section 86(1)(c) of the same Act was for sheltering the bear cub in an unsuitable and non-conducive environment.
After both the charges were read by a court interpreter, Zarith Sofia then pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to the chargesheet, Zarith Sofia committed both offences at her Sentrio Pandan condominium at Desa Pandan here around 8pm on June 6.
In Malaysia, sun bears are listed as endangered and protected under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, making it an offence to simply possess any specimen of the species, whether alive or dead.
Those found guilty can be punished under Section 69(1) of the Act with up to 10 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of RM200,000, or both; Section 86(1)(c) of the Act provides for up to one year in jail or a fine between RM5,000 and RM50,000 or both.
Deputy public prosecutor Munira Zainal Abidin then requested the court to impose a bail of RM30,000, saying it was a serious offence and to restrict the accused from disturbing other witnesses.
The accused’s lawyer Datuk Mohd Haaziq Pillay asked for bail to be reduced.
He told Sessions Court judge Manira Mohd Nor that Zarith Sofia, with a meager monthly salary of RM3,500, had to support both her parents who worked as hawkers.
“Her father has also just undergone surgery to remove a tumour.
“Even the court can impose other conditions but not excessive bail because she is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court,” he argued in mitigation.
The Sessions Court judge then set bail at RM10,000 for both charges with one surety.
She also ordered Zarith Sofia to surrender her passport to the court until the end of trial and to report to a police station on the first day of every month.
The court then fixed July 19 for mention.
Earlier this week, pictures and a video capturing the sun bear cub in the condo and its rescue had circulated on social media.
Zarith Sofia previously revealed she found the injured bear cub at Bukit Ampang several weeks ago and had no intention of keeping the animal as a pet after it recuperated.
She was arrested by officers from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) during a raid on her home last week.
*Editor's note: An earlier version misstated that Zarith Sofia was charged in the Magistrates Court instead of the Sessions Court and has since been corrected. The error is regretted.