Notwithstanding their low species diversity, hyaenas are unique and vital components of most African and some Asian ecosystems. Being large carnivores they clash with the interests of humans to a greater extent than do many other groups of animals. Perhaps the most important challenge facing the conservation of this group of animals is to overcome the very strong negative feelings many people have towards hyaenas.
The family Hyaenidae contains four species, each in its own genus, found in Africa, SW Asia, and India. The IUCN Hyaena specialist group has reviewed that the taxonomy and systematics of living hyaenids. It has concluded that: a) the aardwolf should be included in the Hyaenidae family; b) the brown hyaena and striped hyaena are each other's closest relative; c) the case for subspecific distinction for the aardwolf is sound because of its disjunct distribution; d) the subdivision of striped hyaena into five subspecies should be maintained, although this needs to be reviewed.
The spotted hyaena is the most dependent of the family Hyaeidae on large conservation areas for its long term survival. Distribution and status surveys of hyaenas in many areas are badly needed to implement any kind of conservation management plan.