In Greek, hippopotamus means “river horse.” This name suits the hippo, which spends its days in or near water. At night, aquatic groups of hippos disperse, as individuals go to shore, and females and their infants stay together. Hippos follow onshore trails marked with dung piles to grazing fields, feed for about 5-8 hours, then return to the water before dawn or early in the morning. Hippos are excellent swimmers but prefer to amble along the bottom of slow-moving or stagnant water. An adult hippo can stay under water for up to five minutes. Since hippopotamus are such large animals, they greatly affect their habitats. In water, hippos deposit tons of excrement, which fertilizes plants and feeds animals, such as fish.
Hippopotamus are not as beneficial on the land. They overgraze grass fields and their big feet trample the wet ground around lakes and rivers thereby causing erosion. Countries such as Uganda have organized hippo management culling programs, to help maintain hippo habitats. These programs monitor and maintain hippo and other herbivore populations to preserve the land.