I'm a little frustrated by MyGala saying "you'll just be removing an animal from the captive population merely for your own selfish or egotistical reasons". What an idiotic thing to say. I could say the exact same thing about your pets or anyone elses. Just because its considered an exotic animal doesn't make it different in terms of an ethical debate with a normal, lets say, bearded dragon. By buying one, according to you, I would be "removing it from its captive population" soley because I'm an egotistical and selfish a-hole.
Actually, you are wrong. You can't say the same thing about most peoples pets. Dogs and cats are not wild animals that are endangered in the wild. Owning a Rottweiler doesn't remove valuable genetic material from the captive breeding pool of dogs. There are millions of dogs in the US alone. There are only about 300 cheetahs in all of North America.
And you are also wrong in another way. Whether it is an endangered species or not, has a direct effect on the ethics of animal ownership. If by owning the animal, you in some way damage the species (say by removing animals from an already shrinking genetic pool) then most people could view that as being unethical.
Cheetah populations have dropped precipitously this century. Historically, their genetic diversity has been extremely limited, but with recent human development in Africa, their populations have become so fragmented as to seriously endanger their long term viability. With all of the pressures they are under, captive breeding to maximize their genetic diversity is of huge importance.
Because of this, captive ownership falls into two categories. Either you are helping the species or hurting it. I think most folks would agree that taking a singlet out, just for personal reasons, is hurting the animal. That's selfish, whether you want to admit it or not.
If everyone that wanted a special or exotic animal got one, there would be none left.
So what I'm saying, is that if you are interested in the needs of the animal, instead of yours, you should get a job working with them in a zoo. Otherwise, you are putting yourself first. Again, I think most people would find that selfish. If you think you are in some way special, that the rules and ethics don't apply to you, then that's egotistical.
The reason I'm explaining this is that I don't think you really understand the implications of taking endangered species as pets. Working in a zoo for twenty years, I saw plenty of people who wanted exotic animals as pets. Setting aside the arguments of whether they make good pets, or whether people could supply the strict requirements of a an exotic, ...there just aren't enough of the animals to go into the pet trade if we want the animals to survive as a species.
I know lots of people who could provide a good home for a Cheetah. But taking even fifty from the captive pool would devastate captive breeding efforts in North America.
If you want a big cat, fine. You think you can handle it, fine. Get a tiger or a lion. There are plenty of them on the market. In fact, there are probably more captive tigers in Texas than there are in all of the wild. Maybe you are independently wealthy with unlimited land and the ability to hire competent, experienced staff to take care of them. Great.
Odds are, you aren't. The odds also say that in the end the animals will pay for your mistakes, even if you don't.
It's sad, but at least you won't be taking down an endangered species with you.
But before you do, let me suggest this. Find a reputable big cat sanctuary near you. Volunteer. After talking to the staff, seeing the animals and hearing the sad stories, see if you still want to be a part of that. None of the owners of the THOUSANDS of unwanted and abandoned big cats in the US thought it would end the way it did.