Thompson Rivers University

Shawn Thompson

Name: Shawn Thompson
Position: assistant professor
Affiliation: independent, unaffiliated
Phone: prefer email


Homepage URL:


I am an educator, journalist, photographer and communicator with an interest in understanding the art of inquiry, beginning with Socrates.

I've published over a thousand newspaper articles, some longer magazine articles and six books, published articles in most of the major daily newspapers in Canada and been quoted as an expert on ape rights in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle.

As a writer my expertise to find a way to take thought, experience, and the drama of life and weave it all together in a story that makes people want to read about it. It doesn't matter how brilliant your ideas are if you can't write about them in a way that makes people feel interested and inspired. Along the way in my life I've ridden a submarine through a gale, trekked in the jungles of Borneo, been chased by wild pygmy elephants, tracked down a fugitive in the Dominican Republic, spent hours inside federal prisons talking to offenders, covered murder trials. And so on.

I worked for newspapers for 17 1/2 years before becoming the founding journalism faculty member of the Thompson Rivers University Bachelor of Journalism Program in 1998.

As a faculty member, I have continued to work as a freelance journalist for more than 20 years, publishing a book called Letters From Prison about the experiences of federal prisoners across Canada and the United States, and a book about orangutans called The Intimate Ape: Orangutans and The Secret Life of a Vanishing Species. The orangutan book was written over ten years of travel to Borneo, Sumatra and other parts of the world. I wrote an online column for Psychology Today magazine about people and apes, was an expert witness for a court case in Argentina about an orangutan named Sandra, testifying and writing four reports for the court, and published an article on how to design science experiments with great apes in order to support the court action of the Nonhuman Rights Project seeking to win personhood rights for intelligent species in U.S. court.

I am the former chair of the Thompson Rivers University arts faculty Academic Standards Committee; former chair of the university Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Committee; former chair of the Community Advisory Board for the local maximum-security provincial prison in Kamloops.

Research Interests

The art of inquiry; applied critical thinking; applied ethics; citizen journalism; academic freedom; narrative structure; time travel


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.


"Supporting Ape Rights: Finding the Right Fit Between Science and the Law." ASEBL Journal, January 2019.

"How to Resist Anxiety When You Write an Overly Ambitious Article about Science, the Law and Animal Rights: Response to Comments," ASEBL Journal, Vol 14, issue 1, January 2019.

"Animal rights: When apes have their date in court," The Ultimate Guide Philosophy Now Issue One: Ethics, November 2017. This is a stand-alone "bookazine" which republished the previous Philosophy Now story, this time as the cover story.

"To Justice Elena Liberatori: Response from Leif Cocks, Gary Shapiro, and Shawn Thompson on recommendations re transferring the orangutan Sandra to a sanctuary," Aug. 22, 2017. Report submitted on request of the presiding judge in a court case. Two other reports were submitted to the court on May 2, 2017 and Feb. 19, 2015.

"When Apes Have Their Day in Court," Philosophy Now, Issue 111, Dec 2015/Jan 2016. The article is about the apes rights cases in Argentina and the United States.

"El procurador que lamenta la muerte de Darwin," Pagina 12, Sept. 29, 2015. This long article was written in Spanish for this newspaper in Buenos Aires in reply to an article by the attorney general of Buenos Aires in La Nacion where he ridiculed the court case of the orangutan Sandra on several grounds, invoking evolution and Darwin but mangling the science terribly. I was an expert witness in the case, testifying in 2015.

"Guardians of the Forest." Wild Travel, 2012.

"Introvert? Extrovert? Tips for a Balanced Classroom," Canadian Teacher magazine,
Jan/Feb., 2012.

"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.

"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

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
Media Theory and History
Outlaw Journalists (literary journalism)
Environmental Journalism
Print Production
Introduction to Multimedia
Introduction to Professional Writing


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