A video of an ape, breaking out of its cage and attacking; the victim — a human scientist, that picks up a small red hammer and defends himself, battering the primate ran amok.

It sounds like a pretty gruesome video, bound to have animal right’s activists redouble their efforts to see the heartless jailers brought to justice. But hey, wait a minute… Apes don’t wear sneakers.

What gives?

The 40-second dabble into homemade horror by researchers in Japan was presented to an engaged crowd of chimp viewers as part of a study published in Current Biology. The team found that not only did the chimps fail to avert their eyes, but were not tempted by distracting treats dangled in front of them during the screening.

 

Then the team tried playing the video to them 24 hours later, and the chimps actually remembered where the hammer was, and the role it played — their eye movements show they watched the impromptu weapon several times before it was actually picked up. This suggests that the chimps remembered the plot and were expecting the hammer to be picked up.

The rights of simians are currently being debated in the US, with some lawyers arguing chimps are “autonomous and self-determining” beings. Such issues have long been chewed over at the movies, with the rebooted Dawn of the Planet of the Apes franchise recently reigniting discussion. Earlier this year, Jurassic World and Ted 2 both also cheerled for some animals to enjoy equivalent rights to humans.

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