Celebrities walked down a green carpet at London Zoo to dine on bug bites and cricket canapes to raise vital funds to bring wildlife back from the brink of extinction.

VIPs including ZSL patron Geri Halliwell-Horner and David Walliams attended the annual Safari in the City fundraising gala, which raised more than £522,000 for international conservation charity ZSL on Wednesday (September 20).

London Zoo rolled out the green carpet for the glitzy event, which saw the charity’s 300 guests explore the conservation zoo.

Ham & High: Author and comedian David Walliams with ZSL London Zoo chief exec Matthew GouldAuthor and comedian David Walliams with ZSL London Zoo chief exec Matthew Gould (Image: ZSL)

Guests joined ZSL scientists, zookeepers and conservationists who shared the vital work the international conservation charity is doing to protect wildlife, before heading into the safari style marquee for the live auction, led by Lord Harry Dalmeny.

The opportunity to name the Zoo’s next Western lowland gorilla baby, a critically endangered species, raised £40,000 while naming a red panda cub - an endangered species whose wild population continues to decline - raised £8,000.

The VIPs also came face to face threatened species including Asiatic lions, Sumatran tigers, Western Lowland gorillas and numerous species of coral – many of which were rescued by ZSL after being illegally traded on the international black market.

Ham & High: Geri Halliwell-Horner meets the penguins at ZSL London ZooGeri Halliwell-Horner meets the penguins at ZSL London Zoo (Image: ZSL)

At the Tiny Giants conservation centre they were served mealworm tarts with mushroom and cress, and smoked beetroot and cricket with quinoa and pesto prepared by Benugo chefs.

ZSL chief executive Matthew Gould said: “We created a meal with a message for our annual fundraising gala. Some of our guests might have been a bit surprised to find worms in their canapes, but it’s a powerful way of demonstrating how our choices affect nature, and what the future needs to look like if we're to live better with wildlife. And the insect canapes were very tasty.”

ZSL’s fundraising director James Wren added: “With a million plant and animal species under threat of extinction, from habitat loss, poaching and climate change, we are losing biodiversity at an alarming rate - now more than ever, the natural world needs our help.  

“Since last night, our generous supporters have continued to pledge, and we expect this total to increase – which is a fantastic indicator of their passion for wildlife and recognition of the importance of our work.

"We urge others to lend their support by donating via our website, zsl.org.”