Pi tells the story of Richard Parker’s origins. A panther had been killing people near Bangladesh, so the locals called in a professional hunter to capture or kill it. The hunter left a goat as bait, but instead of a panther it attracted two tigers, a mother and her cub. The hunter shot the mother with a tranquilizer dart and sent both mother and cub to the Pondicherry Zoo.
Richard Parker now starts to appear as a major character, as the other inhabitants of the lifeboat are swiftly dying off. He is a royal Bengal tiger, but not the same tiger that Pi watched kill the goat.
In the paperwork sent along with the tigers, the hunter’s name, which was Richard Parker, got mixed up with the name the hunter gave to the cub, which was Thirsty (with the family name “None Given”). Pi’s father was so amused by this that he officially kept the tiger cub’s name as Richard Parker.
This amusing backstory is contrasted with the terrifying reality of Richard Parker’s presence on the lifeboat. Martel found the name Richard Parker in several shipwreck narratives, and felt that the name must be significant.