Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Shawn Thompson

Shawn Thompson

Shawn Thompson

Name: assistant professor Shawn Thompson
Phone: prefer email


ethical issues, rights of wildlife, rights of the great apes, journalism ethics, issues of incarceration of people and wildlife, critical thinking, Southeast Asia, jazz, Louis L'Amour westerns, stir fry, jogging, narrative, Immanuel Kant, Mikhail Bakhtin, Michel Foucault, photography, introversion/extroversion,

Research Interests

With 30 years experience in journalism, 17 1/2 years of that working full time in newspapers and the rest working freelance while teaching, I have a long-standing interest in ethical issues, particularly in journalism and mass media, in the incarceration of people and wildlife, and in great apes and wildlife. This goes back to my time as a prison reporter, which led to my 2002 book Letters From Prison: Prisoners Write about the Struggle for Life and Sanity Behind Bars. Since 2001, I have been working on publicity in the mainstream to raise the profile of orangutans as an endangered species in Borneo and Sumatra through a book, magazine articles, a blog site, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and other forms of mass communication. These sites can be found under the name IntimateApe. In 2015, I was an expert witness in the court case of an orangutan in Buenos Aires and wrote three reports for the court. I also wrote an online column for Psychology Today magazine about people and apes. After the publication of my book on orangutans in 2010 I have started work on a companion book about moral issues involving the great apes. I have a regular column on the online environmental magazine mongabay called The Ethical Ape about bio-ethics. The column is the work-in-progress on my book. Part of my ape project involves using photos and video to tell their story directly to an audience unmediated by words. This kind of wordless communication is also an issue in how human beings understand and communicate with an intelligent species that does not use the human language which we use for evaluating the consciousness of others.


Honours B.A. English Language and Literature, The University of Western Ontario.

M.A. English literature, Queen's University.

PhD. English literature a.b.d., the University of Western Ontario



The Intimate Ape: Orangutans and the Secret Life of a Vanishing Species. New York: Citadel Press (an imprint of Kensington Press), 2010.

Letters From Prison: Felons Write about the Struggle for Life and Sanity Behind Bars. Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 2002.

Soul of the River: Life in the Thousand Islands. Burnstown: General Store Publishing House, 1997.

A River Rat's Guide to the Thousand Islands. Erin: Boston Mills Press, 1996.

River's Edge: Reprobates, Rum-runners and Other Folk of the Thousand Islands. Burnstown: General Store Publishing House, 1991.

River Rats: The People of the Thousand Islands. Burnstown: General Store Publishing House, 1989.

ARTICLES PUBLISHED as a series in the Psychology Today magazine online column called The Intimate Ape: what humans and Apes have in common

"Orangutans, Mel Gibson and the bite test: Orangutans use a bite test to the fortitude of a person." August 7, 2010

"Thanks for the gestalt, mate: Connecting with orangutans." May 23, 2010

"The man who helps orangutans find love: Willie Smits, orangutan matchmaker." May 22, 2010

"The perfection with orangutans: Life is cheap and then you get a moment of perfection in a zoo." May 15, 2010

"Orangutans and the absence of need: Orangutans need us less than we would like to think." May 13, 2010

"When an orangutan can't get the love she wants: When a woman wants sex." May 10, 2010

"Feeling the life inside an orangutan: I saw a small miracle happen in Taipei today." May 3, 2010

"How to apologize to an orangutan: Sometimes an orangutan needs an apology." April 27, 2010

"Losing the battle of wits with an orangutan: Gary Shapiro communes with an orangutan." April 23, 2010

ARTICLES PUBLISHED in The Ethical Ape column on

"Trapped between zoo and sanctuary: the dilemma of the institutionalized ape named Sandra," August 26, 2015.

"When apes have choices and preferences," March 16, 2015

"How Tarzan created Jane Goodall and how Goodall then repaid the favour," September 2, 2013

"Coming to terms with the evil Jane Goodall and the mystery of the dragonfly incident," August 4, 2013


"When Apes Have Their Day in Court," Philosophy Now magazine (U.K.), Dec/Jan. 2015/2016, pp. 26-29.

"El procurador que lamenta la muerte de Darwin," Pagina 12 (Argentina), Sept. 29, 2015.

"Guardians of the forest [on orangutans]," Wild Travel magazine (U.K.), April 2012, pp. 106-112.

"Introvert Extrovert," article in Canadian Teacher magazine, Feb. 2012, pp. 6-8.

"A Forest Forever: A Reforestation scheme in Borneo could radically reshape wildlife protection..." This Magazine, May/June 2010

"Why we are failing orangutans." mongabay, March 1, 2010

"Jungle School: lessons we can learn from orangutans." Canadian Teacher magazine, Jan. 2009.

"Crime Scenes." This Magazine, November/December 2007

"Orangutune," Westworld magazine, September 2005.

"Just Coffee," book review in Alternatives: Canadian Environmental Ideas & Action, summer 2003, pp. 43-44.

"In the jungle it's no shame to use a shaman," Westworld magazine, October 2002.

"Grizzly politics," The Journal of the Society of Environmental Journalists, spring 2002.

"Weekend [in prison] in Kingston: A view from the other side," The Anglican Journal, September 1998.

"Fallen Angel or devil in Disguise? A Kingston Forensic Psychiatrist Believes He Knows The Real Karla Homolka," The Kingston Whig-Standard Companion, December 16, 1997.

"Between Heaven and Hell," The Kingston Whig-Standard Companion, October 26, 1996.

"Where the Wild Creatures Are," The Kingston-Whig-Standard magazine, December 3, 1993.

"Sewer Rats on Patrol," Reader's Digest, May 1991.

Employment History

Full-time tenured faculty at Thompson Rivers University since 1998.

Editor, reporter and photographer at the Kingston Whig-Standard, Kingston, Ontario, 1988-1998.

Editor, reporter, photographer and layout supervisor at various community newspapers in Ontario, 1980-1988.

Courses Taught

Reporting for the Media
Outlaw Journalists (literary journalism)
Environmental journalism
Print Production
News writing (fall 2015)
Media law and ethics (2016)

Professional Affiliations

Member of the board of The Orang Utan Republik (an educational initiative working in Indonesia)