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Milo, the Last Surviving Hand-Holding Sea Otter, Has Died

In 2007, visitors to the Vancouver Aquarium uploaded a video to YouTube of two otters holding hands (paws?) while sleeping on their backs in their tank. The adorable video quickly skyrocketed in popularity, becoming a seminal exemplar of videos going “viral.” The two otters were a female named Nyac and a male named Milo, who enjoyed many happy years at the aquarium after their rise to e-stardom. Sadly, after a struggle with cancer, Milo died this past Thursday.

Milo, who was 12 years old when he died, was born in a captivity in Portugal. In his famous YouTube video, he can be identified as the otter with the white head.

This past summer, Mil was diagnosed with lymphoma. Taking the well-being of their denizens quite seriously, the aquarium staff worked to create a special chemotherapeutic treatment for the otter. Dr. Martin Haulena, a veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium, told CBC news that Milo’s diagnosis and treatment were medical milestones as far as otters were concerned:

“He was the very first live sea otter diagnosed with lymphoma. He was also the very first sea otter that I’m aware of that had chemotherapy,” said Haulena.

“We worked with a lot of people around the world creating a very special plan for him, including some very very novel treatments and I think we did very well by him.”

The treatment seemed to be working for some six months, giving Milo some renewed vigor. However, it was not enough to destroy the cancer permanently.

Milo’s passing means that both the otters which appeared in that famous video are now both deceased. His video partner Nyac, died in 2008 from chronic lymphatic leukemia. Amazingly, Nyac was rescued from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and lived to the ripe old age of 20. As of writing, their famous video has nearly 17 million views. The top comment on the video is from a YouTube user named tremblingaspen and reads:

RIP Milo. Hope he’s holding hands with Nyac again.

(Vancouver Aquarium blogCBC News via Neatorama)

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