Located 5 km north-east of Kokstad at an altitude of 1 300 m a.s.l., this IBA occupies the valley bottom along the course of the Manzimnyama River as it meanders through agricultural land. What remains of the natural vegetation comprises East Griqualand Grassland. The permanently saturated to flooded areas, particularly the lowest depressions in the vlei, are Typha-dominated. Tall sedges are locally dominant in less permanently and deeply flooded conditions as well as in seasonally flooded areas, where they occur alongside various grass species. Seasonal or ephemeral flooding in sedge meadow and hygrophilous grassland is often extensive and up to 50 cm deep, but in some years much of the floodplain remains almost completely dry. To the west of the main floodplain area, in grazing land adjacent to the Mzintlava River, old oxbows provide small and relatively insignificant patches of sedge-dominated palustrine wetland habitat.
This is one of only four sites in South Africa known to have held White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi regularly over the past eight years. However, surveys carried out in 2014 did not locate the species. This site has held up to four White-winged Flufftails in years of good flooding. It is a good site for African Rail Rallus caerulescens, while the amount of breeding habitat for Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla was so extensive in January 1992 that a minimum breeding population of 120–140 pairs was estimated. This number is much higher than any known or estimated from any other site in South Africa, and probably from any site of comparable size on the African continent.
Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata has been recorded once, and Corn Crake Crex crex is probably annual in grassland around the vlei. Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris is resident and is presumed to breed. The winter reedbed roost of Grey Crowned Cranes Balearica regulorum builds up to numbers in excess of 100. In the same season, the wetland is an important local site for ducks and geese, with 350–400 birds present when there is moderate flooding. Over the past few years a pair of Wattled Cranes Bugeranus carunculatus has bred annually at the site.
Globally threatened species are White-winged Flufftail, Grey Crowned Crane (up to 100 individuals may roost in the wetland) and Wattled Crane (one breeding pair and three individuals).
The endangered long-toed tree frog Leptopelis xenodactylus is known from the area.
This is a significant site in view of the occurrence of White-winged Flufftail. Among the sites for this species in South Africa it is unique in that it has no Carex-dominated vegetation; the birds occur in vegetation types from which they are not recorded elsewhere in the country. The wetland floodplain habitat is found nowhere else in East Griqualand and it merits the highest possible conservation status. The fact that it contains such good habitats and such an impressive diversity of wetland birds is all the more remarkable when one considers the history of burning and grazing to which much of the site has been subjected. In the early 1990s there was a proposal to dam the entire wetland but, after discussion and objections, this plan was abandoned.
Threats at the IBA have been greatly reduced in recent times. Extensive efforts to rehabilitate the wetland have been undertaken and were rewarded almost immediately when a pair of Wattled Cranes took up residence and bred. The owner of Penny Park is currently entering into Biodiversity Stewardship facilitated by EWT. The declaration of this property will help secure the future of the site and greatly improve management.
Begg GW. 1989. The wetlands of Natal (Part 3). The location, status and function of the priority wetlands of Natal. NTRP Report No. 73. Pietermaritzburg: Natal Town and Regional Planning Commission.
Taylor PB. 1994. The biology, ecology and conservation of four flufftail species, Sarothrura (Aves: Rallidae). PhD thesis. University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Taylor PB. 1997a. The status and conservation of rallids in South Africa: Results of a wetland survey in 1995/96. ADU Research Report No. 23. Cape Town: Avian Demography Unit, University of Cape Town.
Taylor PB. 1997b. South African palustrine wetlands: The results of a survey in the summer 1995/96. ADU Research Report No. 24. Cape Town: Avian Demography Unit, University of Cape Town.