Among the many spin-offs resulting from neural cell cloning was the possibility that Alzheimer's could be avoided. Perhaps brain injuries quickly cured. Perhaps memory loss could be reversed. Perhaps it was even possible that human intelligence could be increased. It turned out that merely increasing the synaptic complexity in human brains didn't necessarily make a person "smarter," at least as mankind defined intelligence.
On the other hand, enhancing the number and connectivity of neural connections in animals did have a profound impact on their behavior. A whole new class of biological toolmasters began to experiment. It turned out that the most intelligent guinea pig or rabbit possible still wasn't very intelligent. On the other hand, an 'epified' dog was easily as intelligent as a ten year old human child. An epified dolphin was inhumanly intelligent, perhaps much more intelligent than the average human. Unfortunately, epified dolphins tended to be more aggressive and less cooperative. Soon there were epified cats, horses, elephants, and several types of primates. The Neo-ape was born.
Neo-apes, including chimps, gorilla, gibbons, and orangutans were all about as intelligent as a 'real' person. They couldn't talk, but they could communicate using several sign language approaches. Most could learn to read and type. Once access to Strange Worlds was available, the Torc allowed Neo-Animals to fully enter civilization as equals.
Then something even more interesting happened. Intelligent animals had always lived in Strange World Red. There were intelligent ape civilizations in the Parchland Wastes and many northern mercenary bands were only too happy to have a few gorillas and chimps in their ranks. Who hadn't heard of the dread dire-beasts, particularly large, nasty, and devilishly intelligent versions of common animals.
Inevitably the there came the day when a Neo-gorilla from Blue first met a Dire gorilla from Red.