Pi expounds on the idea of territoriality in animals. He says that if you fall into a lion’s pit, the lion will kill you not because it’s hungry but because you have crossed its boundaries. Lions (like most animals) respect the territory of others as well as their own, which is how lion-tamers work. The lion-tamer enters the cage first, so the lions see that it is his territory. They are not afraid of him, but they know that he provides them with food and so they prefer to keep up the order of their group.
Pi’s knowledge of taming dangerous beasts will take on a major role later. His ideas about animal-training center on boundaries and confidence in the trainer, and a “suspension of disbelief” in the lions themselves. The lions know they could easily overpower the trainer, but they accept his leadership because he provides food, security, and order.
Pi describes the concept of alpha animals (dominant leaders) and beta animals (the rest of the group). He says that most animal violence is the result of “social insecurity,” or the animal not knowing whether they are alpha or beta. The lion-tamer reinforces his alpha status with the whistle and whip and a calm, forceful stare.
The other Greek letters (alpha, beta, and omega) used in the idea of animal-taming refer back to Pi’s own nickname. Alpha, beta, and omega have ordered places within the alphabet, but pi is unending and irrational. Animals prefer clear boundaries and will take order over ambition.