Lambs in Cyberspace

Back to Contents of Issue: January 2002

The Net Brings life on a New Zealand farm to classrooms in Kyushu.

by Jack Brohamer

MOVE OVER, AIBO. MEET the cute, little lambs of Buller district, New Zealand; about 100 of these cuddly creatures will soon have their own personalized Web sites and email services.

As of late November, 10 lambs already had their own Web sites and had been adopted by schoolchildren in Amagase, a small town on Japan's southern island of Kyushu. The students can check the progress of their lambs by accessing the sites or sending email inquiring about Fluffy (, Buttons (, or the ominously named Luncheon (, for example. Students at St. Canices school in the 11,000-person town of Westport, New Zealand, periodically check up on the lambs, post photos, and write reports on the Web sites. They also answer email from the Japanese students.

"The children will be able to interact directly in Japanese and English with each other with the help of translators," says Garry Howard, a Buller district council economic development officer. "I guess this is the modern-day take on being a pen pal." The Japanese students get to make friends from another country, learn to surf the Internet, and adore their kawaii lambs from a distance, with no fuss or muss. And, sometimes, the St. Canices kids' comments provide a vivid depiction of life on the farm. Benjamin, in charge of Fluffy, writes: "When we got to the farm, I was looking for a lamb that was fluffy. I found one and got hold of it. It felt really rough, but it was fluffy. Then it got away and it went to find its mother. My hands felt really greasy."

Nick, another student, tells of his first encounter with Buttons: "As soon as we got to the farm, I saw the cutest, cuddliest, and smallest lamb, and I said, 'It's Buttons.' I held him as he was dragging me along the grass. I finally got him and he calmed down."

The idea for the lambs online project ( came when the mayor of Amagase and other Japanese officials visited Buller district and said they'd be interested in adopting a few lambs.

Pdom of New Zealand, which specializes in Internet domain names, then offered to make personalized Web sites for the lambs and offer technical support to help the students update those sites. The company's chief executive officer, Robert Wiles, says, "Research shows that within three years, more than 50 million people will have secured their own Internet domain name." Yes, but how many lambs? @

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